Evan Placey’s 2015 play for the National Youth Theatre, revived here by the NYT Rep Company as part of their 2018 West End season, is full of compelling ethical knots.
It ripples with muscular dialogue, and Pia Furtado’s production is superbly performed by a talented young cast. Not everything works though.
Freddie, a 15-year-old schoolboy, has had sex with Diane, a 22-year-old teaching assistant. The first half of Placey’s play takes place seven years in the future, following the fallout when Freddie reports the incident to the police, accusing Diane of grooming him. The second, much shorter half travels back in time to the night in question: the actual events unfold before the audience’s eyes.
There’s some really challenging stuff here – questions about what constitutes consent, about when we reach sexual maturity, and about when a caring student-teacher relationship crosses the line – and Placey handles it all with a deft touch.
But tonally, both the play and Furtado’s production are all over the place, jumping from comedic classroom banter a la The History Boys (which is admittedly great fun) to deadly serious debate without warning. The production is also interspersed with unnecessary dance sequences and is awkwardly static on Cecilia Carey’s shallow set.
Nothing but praise for the NYT cast, though. A few notable mentions: Fred Hughes-Stanton, fantastically feverish as Freddie; Marilyn Nnadebe, compellingly conflicted as Diane; and Alice Vilanculo, show-stealingly funny as a teenage girl in over her head.