Sunday, 27 July 2014

Theatre review: 17

It got two shows into my Top Ten last year, but it has to be said lately the Finborough's productions haven't really been grabbing my attention. Getting a short run after a reading at last year's Vibrant festival, Dameon Garnett's 17 sees teenager Scott (Ryan Blackburn) moving in with his birth mother Lisa (Catherine Harvey) and her family after his adopted mother dies. Desperate to get Scott to instantly fit in to their routine, Lisa becomes over-eager, getting him to share a bedroom with her younger son Leo (Greg Fossard) and trying to get him straight back into school. But as the fact that he's stolen his adopted mother's ashes and is hiding them will attest to, Scott isn't ready to move on yet, and while the two half-brothers gradually start to become friends, Lisa and her husband Daniel (Paul Regan) start to feel the strain.

A lot of plays can get bogged down in exposition, but if anything 17 could have done with a bit more as, despite some decent dialogue and good performances, the plot's overshadowed by questions about how the situation came about in the first place: Given the hoops people have to jump through to adopt a child, how come Scott was given to a, presumably single, woman who seems to have exclusively fed him on a diet of chips? Does an adoptive parent's death really mean the child gets dropped back on the birth mother's doorstep? There's less than two years' age difference between Scott and Leo, so just how quickly did Lisa go from desperate 17-year-old giving away her baby, to comfortably middle-class married woman pregnant with a, this time wanted, second child?

Emma Faulkner's production takes place around a central kitchen unit, which in Bethany Wells' design breaks apart in the second act in an obvious, but effective, reflection of the fracturing family dynamic. But this does mean that in order to dismantle the set an interval has been inserted into the short play, interrupting the flow and leaving more time to ponder over the plot holes.

17 by Dameon Garnett is booking in repertory until the 29th of July at the Finborough Theatre (returns only.)

Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes including interval.

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