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January 8, 2012 4:10 pm
“Fog” is the nickname of the 17-year-old central character, Gary, in this new play but it could also sum up the sort of future that awaits him and the rest of his family. His father, Cannon, has just returned from military service abroad and, as the play opens, the two of them are surveying the flat on a London council estate that they hope to call home. Fog fantasises about a huge plasma television, his father about a garden where they can have “a kickabout”. But it is soon clear that no television, garden or can of paint will make this place home or fix their dysfunctional relationship.
It’s a bruising, sad play, much of it written in blistering London street slang, which vividly emphasises the gap between Fog’s swaggering, macho posing and the lost little boy inside. We learn that Fog and his sister were placed in a care home when their mother died, a place where both siblings learned the crudest kind of survival codes. Cannon is aghast as he becomes aware of his son’s stunted aspirations and warped norms: Fog is a young man who dreams of gunning down his enemies from the balcony, who throws a childish tantrum over a video game, whose idea of success is to be a big-shot drug dealer with a flashy car. He’s a deeply damaged individual.
The play, written, refreshingly, by a man in his twenties, Toby Wharton, and a woman in her sixties, Tash Fairbanks, is very good on the painful relationship between father and son, excellently played by Victor Gardener and Wharton himself in Ché Walker’s gripping production. There is one devastating moment when Cannon tries to get Fog to box with him and the boy, unable to master the skill, clings to his father like a baby. Cannon, appalled, unpeels him, realising that he is hopelessly out of his depth.
Elsewhere, the piece is on slightly shakier ground. The writers contrast Fog’s situation with that of his black friend Michael, who hopes to go to Oxford University. Despite a fine performance from Benjamin Cawley as Michael, this comparison comes over as schematic and both the boys’ sisters are rather underwritten. But this is still a painful, promising play, raising the thorny issue of fatherless boys and of young care leavers and their difficulties. And it ends, wisely and movingly, without resolution.
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