Reflecting on grief, friendship, and the sometimes-suffocating parameters of normality, So Here We Are charts the fallout of a young man’s sudden death. Set in Southend-on-Sea, the show is performed by a local cast drawn partly from the Queen Theatre, Hornchurch’s Outer Limits programme, which aims to develop talent in the outer East London area.
Central to the story – though absent from the stage for the most part – is James Trent’s Frankie, a fizzing, near-frantic timebomb of frustrated ambition and repressed sexuality, trapped in a loving but untruthful relationship with Amy Vicary-Smith’s cheerful yet overwhelmed Kirsty.
Matthew Hood provides a counterpoint as apathetic but contented Smudge, injecting plenty of humour with daft, deadpan asides. Opposite them, Oliver Yellop barely pauses for breath as obnoxious motormouth Pidge, bragging and swaggering and reflexively complaining about foreigners.
Though the characters often feel thoroughly familiar, author Luke Norris effectively captures the bolshy, extroverted expressiveness of Essex idiom, building his script around an extended, perceptively-captured conversation between four twentysomething men, all bluster and banter, insults, and occasional, mumbled sincerity. It’s only in the show’s later sections that the structure breaks apart to reveal fragments of Frankie’s last day alive, gaining some clarity at the expense of focus and naturalism.
Director Caroline Leslie follows the recognisable rhythms of the text, with each scene accelerating or stalling in time with the conversation. Restlessly pacing the space, her performers blether and fuss, trying to escape a gathering shroud of uncomfortable, inescapable silence.