Saturday 11 February 2017

Erasers - Theatre Review

What: Erasers
When: 6 - 17th February
Where: The Owl and Cat Theatre
Written by: Jake Arky
Directed by: Gabrielle Savrone
Performed by: Jesse Badger, Khema DeSilva, Ellen Grimshaw, Victory Ndukwe, Finn Orson, Barnaby Pollock, Jayden Popik, and Erin Shay.
Set by: Gabrielle Savrone and Izzy Summers
Sound by: MBYRO

Barnaby Pollock and Orson Finn
The Owl and Cat Theatre brings us one of the most powerful pieces of theatre you will see this year with their production of Erasers. Arky's depiction of the disaffected youth of today and Savrone's playful yet sensitive direction packs a wallop which will leave you reeling at the end.

Erasers tells the story of a well to do family from the East side of town. The father (Badger) is a workaholic and the mother (Shay) wants to be her sons' friend. The two boys, Jordan (Popik) and Nathan (Orson), have become completely disconnected from their parents and each other.

Both boys yearn for connection to something and someone. Jordan, the older brother, seeks for it in a hip hop culture he does not belong to and does not understand, whilst Nathan is lost in a world which cannot face the truth of who he is.

The story begins with a shocking event which by itself could have been the whole play and been impactful but Arky takes it further. Most plays stop where this one started. Arky is asking questions of us we struggle to face and which is becoming a much bigger social tragedy over the last few decades than we could ever have imagined.

There is an old saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. Arky challenges this by framing his story-telling with a pair of narrators - The Illustrator and The Colorist (played by Badger and Shay). This is a magnificent play device because these two don't explain the story. What they do is say all the things which are usually left unsaid. They read between the lines and utter the unutterable.

This device works on two levels. Firstly, it 'fills in the blanks' and provides us with a lot of humour because they often say what we are all thinking. It also gives these struggling teenagers a voice they haven't yet developed for themselves. As such it gives depth and context for everything they do and say and this allows us a chance to understand them when their actions seem prosaic or cliche or unfathomable.

Savrone has worked with her cast to create some beautifully iconic, yet real characters. Popik is a powerful actor and I expected the detail and power of his character to shine as it did. He is so good though, I was worried he would eclipse the rest of the cast. I needn't have been concerned. Everybody on stage knew who they were and why they were there and never allowed us to escape their world for a single second. In particular DeSilva's Yolanda was hilarious. She is a strong young woman who knew who she was in the world. Orson's Nathan was hypnotic and disturbing and so concentrated he gave me shivers at times.

In his hop hop delusion Jordan befriends Eddie (Ndukwe), an East side boy, and keeps trying to prove he is more homeboy than the real thing. There are many important statements in Erasers, but one of the most resonating comments is that the East side is the dangerous side of town because they are all trying to kill each other, whereas on the West side they are trying to kill themselves.

As I said earlier, this play is about not feeling connected and not being seen. At one point the father says to Jordan he is there for him and Jordan's response resonates in an abyss of darkness with a simple "When?" Tellingly, the father gives up and goes back to his work.

Nathan epitomises the themes through his (and his friend's) life on-line and the need to publish on the internet to be seen. He has no sense of what is appropriate, it all needs to be out there and it is up to site administrators to censor him which drives him deeper and deeper into a well of isolation. His brother Jordan makes a futile and misguided attempt to help but neither of them understand themselves or each other and they have no role models and so the tragedies which ensue are seemingly inevitable.

Erasers is a play with serious adult themes and shocking social commentary and Savrone does not shy away from any of it. The Owl and Cat have provided information on how to get support if this show is too disturbing. Seeing Erasers is really important though because we need to start seeing the things we no longer look at. Our teens are screaming louder and louder to be seen and heard. We need to start listening or we will lose the world.

5 Stars

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