"A very strong Fringe production..."
by remotegoat reviewer for remotegoat on 02/11/14

For the first time since it was written by DC Jackson in 2008, ‘The Wall’ gets a full run in London courtesy of the up-and-coming Mayford Road Productions. Having seen it, it’s pertinent to ask why it took this long for the play to get here. After all, as realistic a portrayal it is of working class Scotland youths it is a subject matter that rings true across the United Kingdom, especially London.

‘The Wall’ tells the story of four teenagers learning about the value of life, love and identity during their summer holidays. It focuses on the romance between Barry (Sam Watson) and Michelle (Emma King) and beautifully explores the repercussions, good and bad, that a repressive working-class life could have on this.

The story, by and large, is not an entirely original one, but its execution is fantastic. Jackson’s writing is full of anger, melancholy and frustration, but the script is littered with some cutting one-liners and genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. All four characters – though carrying baggage – remain sweetly innocent, and Jackson doesn’t shy away from emphasising this.

As young directors themselves, it’s easy to see why David Ricardo-Pierce and Marianne Oldham would choose to stage such a play. As coming-of-age stories go, it’s a great one, and in what I consider a very successful effort, these two have also come of age as directors. I have always been a fan of the ‘less is more’ approach, and they do just that. Other than the actual wall and a graffiti-laden background, there is very little else on the stage, allowing the attention to remain on what is important. The direction was by no means perfect – the ‘hoodies’ seen during scene changes felt too expositional for my liking – but any missteps were just that, and nothing that harmed the enjoyment of the production.

The directors’ biggest achievement, however, is the performances they were able to obtain from their four leads. I was admittedly very wary of having to see adults playing teenagers and I do think that a younger cast would have had more impact. But this does not take away from the fact that the cast is excellent and, within a short while, I found myself fully immersed in the characters. Watson and King have excellent chemistry as the somewhat star-crossed lovers, and they are indeed the heart of the play. We believe in their relationship, and their innocence and vulnerability is beautifully performed. The soul, though, are Roslyn Paterson (as Norma) and Corran Royle (as Rab): representing the harsher side of that working-class life, they are at times both the comic relief and the moral voice of the play.

A quick, but very deserved, mention needs to go the Share Foundation, a charity set up to offer support to children and young people in care, giving them the financial help they need once they leave that system. All profits will be going to the organisation, and everyone involved with the show deserves massive praise for this.

This might sound odd but ‘The Wall’ is a production that works better because it is slightly flawed in its execution. What the production might falter from a lack of experience (from writer and directors), it makes up for in passion (from writer and directors), and an exceptional cast. Mayford Road Productions and The Hope Theatre have produced a wonderful piece of fringe theatre, and you should probably go and see it.

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