Try the new FT.com

June 30, 2011 5:45 pm

Connections, National Theatre, London

  • Share
  • Print
  • Clip
  • Gift Article
  • Comments

The Connections programme is, along with the National Student Drama Festival, the UK’s most exciting showcase of young theatrical work. The NT commissions a number of one-act plays and makes these freely available for school/college/youth groups to stage. The cream of the crop is then invited to give one-off performances at the National.

Wednesday’s opening double bill consisted of James Graham’s meditation on citizenship Bassett and Douglas Maxwell’s sentimental comedy about growing up, Too Fast. Apparently the east Midlands and north-west-based CAST Ensemble Youth Theatre more usually engages in devised verbatim or physical work; this may partly explain the young cast’s impressive ownership of the lines written by Graham.

The pupils of a citizenship class in Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, are locked in their classroom during one of the repatriation events for the military war dead for which the village has become known. Leo is determined to pay his respects to a deceased friend, but also to ensure that his are the only views on citizenship, nationality and patriotism to prevail as his classmates’ conversations touch on broad range of topics.

Tom Murton gave a remarkable performance as Leo, blending intense and confused emotion with real physical menace. Chloé Harris was foremost among his interlocutors,
but scarcely a single performance among the cast of 16 was less than excellently pitched. Graham’s final confrontation is too forced, but this is a typically thoughtful, socially engaged play.

Scarborough Youth Theatre deployed nearly two dozen performers as funeral mourners, a wannabe singing group, flowers and characters from the BBC TV infants’ series In the Night Garden in Douglas Maxwell’s Too Fast, which is by turns sharp and surreal. It was an ambitious staging, but the company’s reach exceeded its grasp, in particular in the decision to cast the central roles from performers several years younger than their characters. This affected not just plausibility but also the actors’ onstage assurance.

Nevertheless, Connections remains a programme about which one is never tempted to use the condescending caveat “very good, considering . . . ”.

4 stars

National Theatre

Related Topics

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

  • Share
  • Print
  • Clip
  • Gift Article
  • Comments

LIFE AND ARTS ON TWITTER

More FT Twitter accounts
SHARE THIS QUOTE