Review- Apples At The Empire

Seeing plays in odd venues is exciting. Just like graffiti and skating in illegal places, it feels wrong but good. Tonight is the opening night of ‘Apples’ – the play of the book by Richard Milward – a fluro-tinged trip through the lives of Boro teenagers Adam and Eve.

Tickets arrive wedged in a Granny Smith, dripping juice. The venue is The Empire.  Inside, instead of the usual Saturday night gyratory of sweat and lairy dance moves there are orderly lines of school chairs. The spell of school is broken by beered-up boys wedging themselves on mate’s knees, rowdy before curtain up. This is theatre,  in a nightclub, and anything could happen.

The actors are local, unknown, and a good few years older than school age – but their assured stances and swagger, mixed with raw material make for convincing stuff.

Uber-geek Adam (played by Scott Turnbull) is all gangly limbs and earnest looks. Therese Neve is Eve, a brassy blonde who flits between cocksure and naïve in the space of one monologue.

Scenes from the book transfer well to stage – helped by atmospheric lighting, simple yet colourful stage design and pared-down acting. The everyday dialogue rings true, even if incidents of date-rape, infanticide and your Mam getting cancer are snapshots of hardcore drama.

The narrative, which runs with gritty humour, takes in claustrophobic homes, rough schools and parties and nights out in the Boro. It rears up to a pivotal school disco scene, which is both sweet and violent. There’s flirting and dancing, and just as you’re hoping Adam finally gets the girl, BAM! , he gets his head kicked in by a pilled-up headcase. Bodies around sigh in unison, and we go to black.

‘Apples’ cocks an unflinching hard-stare at the sharp end of teenage life, and the play is edgy, exciting and quite brilliant. It’s off on a UK tour – taking with it colloquialisms like doyle and the elongation of’ norrrrrrr’ – but it doesn’t matter where it’s set or performed,  as the themes of growing up and making mistakes are universal.

By Germaine Leer on June 6, 2010

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