Kate Tempest has already made a name for herself on the spoken word scene as a poet, rapper and hip hop artist, but with a surname like hers it seems only right that she should cross over to writing for the stage. It is a successful move. Her debut play takes the best elements of these lyrical influences to tell an engaging, emotive story of three friends knee-deep in weekends and growing too old for the drug-fuelled South London party scene.
Friends raving or stuck in a rut?
The friends have known each other since their teens, and now in their mid-twenties, are finding new concerns, aware that in another decade they don’t want to still be gurning at parties, like the people they used to laugh at. On the ten year anniversary of their friend Tony’s death they each visit his commemorative tree – which at least changes four times a year with the seasons – and make confessions of stagnation. Charlotte (Lizzy Watts) walks out of her job as a teacher and books a flight, wanting to move on, to make a difference – ‘I’m making a decision. I’m changing things. This is it.’ Danny (Ashley George) has a last chance to get what he wants and struggles to man up to the occasion whilst Ted (Cary Cranson) has a job and steady girlfriend but is resigning himself to growing up and going nowhere.
A slice of shared ‘wasted’ experience
Wasted is a wittily knowing and dynamic production, managing to relate the rave experience to those still enjoying it and those who have grown past it in equal measure – nostalgic winks and weary wising up cocktail-mixed in with the loved up togetherness of the shared experience. They dance in warehouses in Peckham where art students are ‘experiencing ketamine’ and all the people there have ‘adjectives as names’ and they spend ‘life retelling life and it’s getting boring.’ and ‘dropping pills just so that we can smile at each other without looking away.’ Acting drunk on stage is hard enough to do and get right, but here all three actors act perfectly wasted as they hug speakers and each other and make plasticine faces.
The show talks of trying to jolt yourself out of that rut where you do the same things as you have always done, but now going to parties you get fucked just to have something to say to each other, and that something is often nostalgia for those first parties, those times when it was all exciting and fun and new. Originally commissioned for Latitude 2011, it speaks to a festival going audience and mixes between pounding music and those early morning ‘what does it all mean, what are we doing?’ lucid conversations and the ‘I’m-getting-too-old-for-this-shit!’ comedown realisations and resolutions to do something else, something more, or perhaps just pop another pill, have another dab – ‘We forgot our epiphany the minute that we thought it.’
Fresh and innovative theatre
Paines Plough have a reputation for putting on innovative new works and spotting the direction that theatre is moving in ahead of the pack. Here, director James Grieve taps into the rising spoken word scene in the UK and make something fresh. Wasted places Tempest’s lucid words into the mouths of a strong cast, especially the emphatically charming Cary Cranson, and allows them to breathe. The multi-media piece effectively mixes poetry, monologue, music and drama yet falls down with the film background, which adds nothing to the other all production, except occasional unwanted distraction. However this, and the delayed start due to technical hitches – this was the first night of the tour where they were without their full team – were my only grievances with an otherwise exhilarating show. In her mid-twenties also, Tempest writes what she knows here and in doing so makes Wasted a heartfelt call to arms to a lost generation, reminding her peers that it isn’t too late to change track, to go for what you want.