Wasted, written by Kate Tempest and put on from the 23rd-25th of April by the UEA Drama Society, opened with a bang.
‘If we’re being honest with you – actually honest, not just apparently honest – then we have to tell you, we don’t have a clue what any of you are doing here,’ the characters shouted to the audience. It was surreal for me; I’d seen the fourth wall broken before, but not like that. The actors – Molly-Rose Curran as Charlotte, a teacher, Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson as Ted, an office worker, and Alfie Snow as Danny, a struggling musician – made use of the limited space the room offered by climbing up through the audience to deliver their lines right to people’s faces. Suddenly, the audience was no longer watching this performance. Instead, we’re right in the middle of it, and it’s electric.
Tempest’s skill as a rap and hip-hop artist bleeds into her work; her monologues are dynamic poems and her dialogue is raw and genuine. You could feel the energy underneath the words pent-up inside each character, waiting for an outlet, and the actors portrayed it with honesty and no shortage of real and palpable emotion. One of my favourite scenes finds Danny sitting in a café the morning after a party, still a little drunk, lamenting the state of the world and his relationship with Charlotte while Ted sits opposite him debating whether or not to order a jacket potato.
For me, the stand out moment in this performance was the party scene itself. Each of the characters down a pill and some water as the bass swells, and then, out of nowhere, it drops. The strobe lights start and the actors throw their bodies around in a frenzy to heavy dance music. The scene is filled with a manic energy, and the characters make use of the entire stage, both aware of and interacting with their audience. Ted stands on my chair and shouts to the heavens; Danny takes an audience member’s nearly-finished beer and pours the remains over himself. They’re sweating and panting and expressing themselves in the only way they know how – drunkenly. I had never seen such an insane performance and it was glorious. This was a triumph for director Ben Purkiss; immersing the audience so expertly into the performance was what made this production unforgettable for me.
There were some painful moments in this play, I’ll admit. Watching each character sitting on the remnants of an old wooden fort, names painted across it, talking to a friend who isn’t with them anymore, was a reminder that sometimes the people you know as a child are not going to be around for as long as you are. But what I loved about the Drama Society’s production of Wasted was that they took a play filled with painful moments and charged it full of hope. They made it about finding happiness in the little things even when you’re not happy. They showed that success isn’t measured in how far away you get from your home town.
As the production ended with footage of London life projected in purple hues over the bowed heads of the actors, I found myself replaying lines over and over in my head; ‘you deserve everything you dare to want’; ‘life wants you – it beckons’. This play resonates with our generation for a reason, and I know that the Drama Society’s production is going to stay with me for a long time.