Katie Johnstone at the Orange Tree Theatre
In partnership with St Mary’s University, the Orange Tree Theatre’s Director’s Festival boasts a second year of dedicating the stage to the works of future directors. 2018’s programme presents a new play written by Luke Barnes, which tells the story of young dreamer Katie Johnstone.
While bemoaning her fate of not having been born into wealth, Katie’s dilemma is presented as a very middle-class problem of a youth who is artistically inclined in an environment that demands productivity with immediate results. Hence, Katie (Georgia May Hughes) aspires to write the best British poetry, contrary to the wishes of her family and friends who insist that she get a boyfriend and a job at Tesco.
It is in the moments of dialogue – through dance – with a fox that the protagonist can display her dissidence with the “concrete jungle” in which she lives with her young single mother. It is as she denounces the values of the concrete existence that the fox arrives as if to nurture her feelings of estrangement. However, through vicious brawls with her mother and her best friend in which she reveals the ugly truth of a nonconformist existence, Katie is soon lulled into inertia as she accepts a “normal” boyfriend and “normal” aspirations based on the financial state of her family.
This three-person play leaves Hughes at all times on the stage while all the other characters – played interchangeably by Kristin Atherton and Reuben Johnson – come and go in brief interactions. In a subtle manner, this piece eloquently captures what a young, environmentally, socially, and politically aware artist suffers in the monotony of daily co-existence. However, her pivot upon wealth and her ideals to make the town “like Magaluf or Las Vegas” are detached from the sentiments true to her predicament. It appears at times bitterly resentful and querulously dull.
With a very simple set-design by Eleanor Bull, interactive lighting design by Stuart Burgess, and quirky, upbeat sound design by Anna Clock, Katie Johnstone heralds the work of these young actors and its director Samson Hawkins.
Photo: Robert Day
Katie Johnstone is at the Orange Tree Theatre from 13th until 21st July 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.