Fortnight theatre’s upcoming production of Kate Tempest’s Wasted promises to be a refreshing and edgy look into the depths of youth culture in modern Britain, focused around three characters – Charlotte (Olivia Bevan), Danny (Danny Parker), and Ted (Owen Sparkes). The play is about these three friends, their relationship to each other and their dreams, as they go through the raves of London on the anniversary of their friend’s death.
Wasted is a play about love, life and losing your mind, set in South London. Unlike many plays put on by Durham Student Theatre groups with their intentions of being cool, gritty and new – this play is genuinely bringing something new to student theatre.
Kate Tempest is a contemporary writer primarily known for her spoken-word, which fuses rap, hip-hop, lyricism and poetry. Tempest’s poetry is self-consciously anti-elitism, and her play is no different. The play is relatively short and there is no interval as Wasted challenges the audience’s expectations of what a play should be.
This has been reflected through the staging and set up as the crew have decided to show Wasted in Empty Shop, which is a paired down, relaxed, Berlin-esque bar and venue. There will be beanbags and pillows to sit on and a generally chilled atmosphere where the boundaries between actors and audience are blurred. Director Sofya Grebenkina comments, ‘there’s an intimacy that’s not forced.’
Grebenkina, who is well established in the Durham theatre scene, says that although it is a cliché to say that this play is unlike any other play you have seen in Durham, she’s justified in saying so. Wasted is fresh, raw, and about the times we live in now. Unlike many plays in Durham that have been done hundreds of times by professional theatre groups and are well established in the theatrical canon Wasted is vibrantly new, written in 2013.
Grebenkina adds that ‘it is not something really removed from us, it is something in our backyard which we might not want to really acknowledge, but that’s always there and it’s there now’ and ‘it’s so important to hear a story that we might not hear.’
First-time assistant director Julia Atherley was drawn to the play because of her love for Kate Tempest. She cites the intermingling of spoken word and dramatic prose as making this play so unique and powerful. She notes that ‘all the spoken word bits are all poetry and they’re all so true, it just tries to be really honest.’
Wasted reminds me of a more streamlined, well-written and profound version of Skins, with characters getting wrecked but not really knowing why. Atherley says that the play confronts the unpleasant truths of our behaviour of getting routinely wasted – ‘We’ve all had that feeling when you’re off our face at a party and you don’t know why and you aren’t really enjoying it.’
Olivia Bevan plays Charlotte, a millennial dreamer and the on and off girlfriend of Danny. Bevan says ‘Charlotte expresses this millennial fear,’ where ‘everyone wants to be kind of exceptional and unique and there’s this massive pressure put on academic excellence and getting a job in which you’re really fulfilled.’ She adds that while Charlotte has all the ‘best intentions in life’, weaknesses and vices mean that ‘she keeps slipping into these spirals of destructive behavior which means she doesn’t go after what she seeks from her life and the goals that she has.’
Aptly named Danny Parker plays the male lead, Danny. Parker suggests that his character is defined by ‘his desire to cling to his youth and to make everyone cling to their youths as well, and to live forever in this late teens, early twenties kind of lifestyle.’ Parker says ‘he has dreams which he talks about, he wants to be a rock star, but you never quite know whether they’re genuine or not, I think everyone has dreams like that.’ We all have unrealistic dreams and this play shows the extent we rely on our dreams to shape meaning in our lives.
There is something very honest, unapologetically open and vulnerable about the characters of this play. The characters oscillate between banal, everyday language and painfully honest monologues in which they communicate with their dead friend Tony. The fusion of spoken word and dramatic prose is something unseen in Durham Student Theatre and not to be missed.
From what I have seen and heard, going to see this play will certainly not be time wasted.
‘Wasted’ will be performed at Empty Shop on Tuesday, 13th June and Wednesday 14th June at 20:00. Book your tickets here.
Photograph: Anna Iermolaieva