Seventeen

Lyric Hammersmith

Saturday 11/03/17

Cast Includes Michael Feast, Diana Hardcastle and Roger Sloman

Running Time: 90 mins, no interval

 

The memories of our youth tend to be some of the strongest and evoke the most nostalgia – this is something that Seventeen manages to capture exceptionally well. The show, which uses a cast of veteran actors, focusses on the moment between childhood and adulthood, and the difficulties that arise from it.

The writer, Matthew Whittet, has done a very good job at creating a plot that captures both the highs and lows of adolescence. It manages to collect a cross-section of the generation (though it is a mainly white, dated and possibly idealised one) and weaves them into an enjoyable, if occasionally predictable, storyline.

The production also suffers from a few pacing and structural issues – the first half is predominantly celebratory and the second is more reflective and sad, which comes across as quite a simplistic view – the best parts tend to occur when Whittet combines these, making it more true to life. It also means we get a very music-heavy, louder first section, followed by a slower, quieter latter half which means there is sometimes a lack of contrast which means it can drag.

One of the other artistic choices also made the piece less cohesive – there is a range of both contemporary and older music, which makes the time setting harder to place. Whilst this could be seen to make the piece timeless (possibly like the eternity symbol shaped climbing frame),  it was distracting – youth regularly associate themselves and identify with music so this made it difficult to identify with the characters.

Moving on to the cast, the actors were all exceptionally good at capturing their youth. Of particular note was Roger Sloman as Tom, caught in a moral quandary. However, there seems to be little reason for the cast to be older other than a marketing gimmick – other than a few knowing references and considerations of things to come which work well, this could easily be a play performed by young people. It feels like there is going to be a twist or reveal at some point which utilises the cast’s older ages, but this never materialises and feels like a missed opportunity to comment on the notion of a ‘second childhood’ that may befall the characters in later life.

Summary: A solid piece that evokes the nostalgia of youth into a neat plot that possibly ends a little too neatly. ***

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