dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

The Awkward Years review at the Other Room, Cardiff – ‘funny and unsettling’

Lauren O'Leary in The Awkward Years at the Other Room, Cardiff. Photo: Kirsten McTernan Lauren O'Leary in The Awkward Years at the Other Room, Cardiff. Photo: Kirsten McTernan

The Other Room’s latest season kicks off with a stripped-back, one-woman play that is both funny and unsettling. Lily (Lauren O’Leary) is 27 years old, stuck in a minimum-wage job as a leisure centre lifeguard, and caught in a joyless spiral of binge-drinking and meaningless sex. When even her dependable best friend grows out of the cycle of Jagerbombs and hangovers, Lily finds herself at a crossroads.

The Awkward Years is a very modern coming-of-age tale, exploring the limited possibilities for today’s 20-somethings who have come through a college education yet can find no way beyond the student lifestyle.

Matthew Bulgo’s script and Lauren O’Leary’s performance – an impressive professional debut – brilliantly evoke the shame of a life spent in perpetual self-loathing. Yet, refreshingly, Lily is a character that doesn’t beg for, or need, the audience’s sympathy. There’s plenty of defiant wit in the monologue and in O’Leary’s unapologetic delivery. Her showdown with a lecherous boss is a particular highlight.

Dan Jones and movement director Krista Vuori create a frenetic atmosphere, the action interspersed with spiky dances as the character rallies against the demons she hides. Those demons come in the shape of a guilty memory that is slowly revealed as the source of her decline.

But herein lies a problem: though this material is skilfully handled, there’s little here we haven’t already seen in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag. Inevitable comparisons are a shame as, observed as a standalone piece, this is a very good play.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
Well-observed monologue, and a strong debut from actor Lauren O'Leary
^