Review: Wasted, via YouTube

“We wish we knew the deeper meaning…”

I’m loving how much livestreaming is being embraced by theatrical institutions up and down the land and now Paines Plough are getting in on the act with Kate Tempest’s Wasted, playing at the Roundhouse but available to watch on YouTube for a while longer. The play was Tempest’s first but captures an excellent middle ground between the spoken word for which she has rightly gained much acclaim and a more conventional type of drama. 

Three friends in their mid-20s gather at the memorial of another of their number where they reflect on different notions of waste – the wasted life of their pal, the years spent getting wasted in their (relative) youth. The theme of the disillusionment of young adulthood after the heady days of teenagerdom is a well-trodden one but Tempest gives it a new vibrancy here with the mix of poetry and prose, microphones and unamplified speech, life and death.

The performance level is frankly brilliant. Cary Crankson’s office flunky tired of getting middle aged so early with trips to Ikea, Bradley Taylor’s would-be musician clinging on fading dreams at inappropriate parties, Alice Haig’s non-sequitur-filled teacher. The switches between the different styles of speech are handled brilliantly, the physical aspect most convincing (the boys on drugs are simply hilarious) and the pulsing beat of the piece, underscored by video and music, is always strong.

As for the recording, it was interesting to see the way the audience experience was incorporated. 5 minutes of audience chatter and build-up starts us off, followed by 60 seconds of video intro and then bang, it begins. There’s a slight jerkiness to the filming, a lack of clarity to the videos shown at the back, but this rough-hewn nature seems appropriate to James Grieve’s production and Tempest’s marvellous writing.

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