NT Connections: Want at the National Theatre
Performed by St Brendan’s Sixth Form College exclusively for Connections Festival 2018 at the National Theatre, Want tells several connected stories of teenage life.
The show opens with a distressed and bored Claire (Jess Finch) and, throughout, the laughs from the audience demonstrate that these are stories everyone can relate to. In the foreground, the narratives play out, though it is hard to focus on more than one. A deep message is delivered within the very first minute, setting up the major theme of the piece: fear of the future and the passing of time.
In a simple set comprised solely of boxes and a spotlight, the complex, character-driven scenes are performed – memories and imagination are all that’s needed to envisage the settings. Although there are only seven characters, the cast deliver big personalities, with each having a unique view on the world.
First, we are presented with Jenny (Charlotte Burton) and Ross (Charles Hollingworth) and an awkward love declaration. The foreshadowing of dark future events is heard in Ross’s speech on never being able to see her again. In fact, the subtext in the play is drawn out in the way the characters always sit so close yet are so far apart in their thinking, and in the important things that aren’t said.
Then, in a blink, the mood becomes sombre, and we meet sisters Heather (Anna Hooper) and Claire, who is in hospital. Just like life, Want is funny one minute and emotional the next. The girls’ judgement of the mental health services in the country are accurate. Spoiler alert: it isn’t positive.
The emotions these young actors can conjure up in a heartbeat make us forget they are such young performers, and, in particular, Tink Trim’s Gabby stands out. It does not feel like we are watching a theatre show at times, more like eavesdropping on real conversations. Barney Norris’s dialogue is only stiff and awkward when it’s supposed to be that way, as shown in Mark (Tom Keenan) and Chris’s (Sam Sinclair) exchange.
Norris wrote about his experiences in a small, rural town, but the cast make these stories their own. Want is truly a chameleon play that can adapt to tell everyone’s teenage-life story, and will have the audience looking back at their adolescent years with fondness and without the normal embarrassment. If the characters are anything to go by, and the equally young actors, one will realise that they were more intelligent than they assumed.
Photo: The Other Richard
Want was at the National Theatre on 27th June 2018 as part of the NT Connections Festival, which runs from 26th until 30th June 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.