I am sitting in the American bar right beside the stage. An audience sits drinking their Sunday afternoon pints about to watch ‘Wasted’. Two actors are in front of me. Two chairs. Two spotlights. The music begins. Immediately we are thrown into a nightclub scene. The two actors are drinking, taking selfies, dancing. As the title suggests, they are wasted.
It is fast, vibrant, energetic. We move through scenes with great speed – the bar, the taxi, the club. We even move from character to character quickly – one minute we are watching two female best friends, next the actors switch to two male friends. Thrown into the mix, the characters change to a mother, a bouncer, a Policeman. All the actors have are two chairs and two spotlights. But with fascinating direction and choreography, one hour of two actors and two chairs becomes so much more.
We have Emma and Kate, best mates on a night out. They bump into Oli and Charlie, and the four progress from a few drinks in the bar, to drinking games, to a taxi, to a club. There’s a scene where Emma falls and is picked up by Oli. Oli examines her bloody foot, only to find that the blood is actually spilled Strawberry Daiquiri. Shannon Wilkinson (Emma) portrays a highly realistic drunken girl – even her facial gestures are down to a tee. Then she manages to switch to the laddish Charlie, which she pulls off effortlessly by the way she cranes her neck and she way she swaggers.
Thomas Martin on the other hand, who originally plays Oli, immediately switches to best friend Kate, and we need no explanation. He can act girlish, feminine and like a sympathetic girlie best friend. Then straight away he can switch straight back into his male character who is being grilled by his mother on what he got up to the night before.
How Nuala Donnelly pulled together this feat of choreography and direction is beyond me. It is fast, tight, and non-stop. This play does not stand still. And yet for some reason, you never lose grip of who is playing who and what scene we are on. The actors pull it off perfectly.
The scenes jump back and forward as we start to learn the events of that wasted night. Emma lost her phone, her wallet, her keys and her friend Kate. Oli is there is pick up the pieces. To literally carry her home over his shoulder.
But then the following morning comes, and along with it, the hangover. Emma’s dread as she awakens and feels rough. But worse than that, did something happen last night? Was there sex? Does she even remember anything?
And this is where the main tension of the story lies. Did Emma and Oli have sex? Emma was too drunk to remember. Did she even consent to it? eg. Was it rape?
Therein lies a storyline which in some ways should feel like a talk to young people, and yet it doesn’t come across like that. Interwoven within the dramatic storyline are lessons to be learned. What would happen if Emma reported Oli? What would the Police say? How would the interviews take place? What are the consequences for this alcohol fuelled evening?
This play has everything – powerful, emotional scenes – when Emma is crying to her friend and can’t remember anything. Comedy and light-heartedness – the early evening, the selfies, the hanging off the bar ordering drinks. Information and education – all young people should watch this play and come away with lessons learned. And physical theatre – how can only two chairs tell so many scenes? It’s because of the way the two actors bounce off each other, move, twist, exchange roles and genders. It is clever, it has perfect timing and it is entertaining.
What was also interesting about the writing of this play (written by Kat Woods) was that my sympathies for the two main characters switched back and forth. I never really knew what was going to happen or what the outcome would be for Oli.
The final scene left me with tears in my eyes. A hugely powerful hard-hitting yet entertaining play. This is one I will not forget.
~ 'Wasted' by Pintsized Productions was performed in the American Bar, Belfast on Sunday 24 February 2019.