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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

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 [1]. Inevitable comparisons are a shame as, observed as a standalone piece, this is a very good play.

Verdict
Well-observed monologue, and a strong debut from actor Lauren O'Leary

Production Information

Production
The Awkward Years
Venue
The Other Room
City
Cardiff
Starts
September 17, 2018
Ends
September 29, 2018
Press night
September 18, 2018
Authors
Matthew Bulgo
Music
Tic Ashfield
Director
Dan Jones
Choreographer
Krista Vuori
Set
Hilary Statts
Lighting
Angharad Evans
Sound
Tic Ashfield
Stage manager
Izzi Harewood-Williams
Cast includes
Lauren O'Leary [debut]
Producer
Jenny Sturt, the Other Room
Running time
55mins