As We Face the Sun at Bush Theatre
It is only in our grown, later years that we look back on the unmatched camaraderie shared with our school classmates; a horde of pupils of the same age forced to interact and spend time with each other can leave lifelong impressions and form firm friendships. This serves as the premise of As We Face the Sun. Kit Withington’s play centres on a group of teenagers who suffer the tragic loss of one of their own during a school trip. Vowing to celebrate the memory of their friend, they reunite annually. Inevitably, everyone reacts to and deals with the death of their friend differently – but for how long can they keep up their tradition? As time passes, does it still carry its intended meaning amidst the meandering lives the now adult peers are leading?
This vibrant and spirited coming-of-age story authentically captures all the ups and downs of adolescence. A script of this nature requires a cast to suitably elevate proceedings, and the Bush Young Companies ensemble more than deliver. A high-octane energy is injected by the collective, which holds our attention from the off.
Directors Katie Greenall and Lynette Linton permit each of the actors to shine, and a simple set consisting of posters of the era and chairs allows them to do all the work. All step up, with James Walsh, Jordan Haynes, Kc Gardiner and Maymuna Abdi being of particular note. With stellar movement direction from Mateus Daniel, viewers are gifted impressive physical theatre and a series of memorable tableaux. The use of direct address feels natural and organic, thanks in part to the audience interaction of the actors before the play commences. Within a short period, we truly believe in and invest in the characters before us, which is no mean feat.
A pacey, punchy script allows for a healthy tempo throughout the 90-minutes, with a 2010s soundtrack adding to the sense of nostalgia that prevails. The transition from innocence to experience is well captured, without the piece ever feeling overly sentimental; instead, we are presented with a true-to-life depiction of how grief impacts each of us differently, as well as the tumultuous, mottled growth from childhood to adulthood that we all face.
Despite the dark subject matter, character-driven humour is littered throughhout, with a number of lighthearted moments or lines of dialogue generating laughter from the audience. This results in a moving and memorable experience that displays the quality of young talent being nurtured by the Bush. The cast and creative team have evidently invested a great deal into this project, and it pays off with a heartfelt and commanding production. The future is looking bright for fresh new talent.
As We Face the Sun is at Bush Theatre from 24th until 26th August 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.