I’m sure there are times when we would all like to turn back the clock; just go back to our youth for a day or so to when the future was laid out in front of us like a sea of opportunity and the stresses of adult life hadn’t yet reared their ugly heads, writes Nicky Sweetland.
Matthew Whittet’s Seventeen at the Lyric Hammersmith gives some veteran actors the opportunity to do just that in a production, which sees them revisit their final day at secondary school and experience again the excitement and trepidation faced by those on the cusp of adulthood.
The cleverly conceived play casts actors in their sixties to portray teenagers, so we experience a dual plot, where students look back on their school days, while retirees reminisce about their lives.
Tom Scutt’s set design-comprised of an oversized playground, complete with an infinity symbol shaped climbing frame-further adds to the ingenious symbolism, and the costumes and props used (teenage girls don’t wear linin shirts and denim peddle pushers and you would struggle to find a seventeen year old in a Bon Jovi t-shirt) make time feel even more muddled, leaving you pondering the period you have landed.
There’s a fine line between making an audience believe you are an adolescent and doing a caricatured performance and in this instance, it could all do with a bit more, as the actor’s well-honed rhythmic delivery of lines and graceful movements just don’t fit with the young adults they are attempting to portray.
Sarah Ball as the outrageous younger sister Lizzy however, gets the movement spot on and when embroiled in a lip sync battle, grinds and pumps like a real teen queen.
Mike Grady is also excellent and captures the awkwardness and self-loathing of a young adult on the periphery of society in heart breaking fashion.
Seventeen feels like the first episode of a kid’s television series; there’s a bit of a love triangle and everyone is contemplating their future, but with no real conclusions, you’ll want to see the next bit.
The topsy-turvy fashion, mixed soundtrack and ‘adulteens’ will make you contemplate your use of time and its relevance to your own continued journey through life.