“No one wants to be average”
The Royal Court has tried different ways of showcasing the work of the new writing talent that it so vitally nurtures and this autumn sees them try out Live Lunch, a set of six new plays – written from scratch over the summer – which fit into the lunch break (assuming you work nearby!) and to which the audience is invited to bring their own lunch. I brought a sandwich but wimped out of eating it and I’m glad I did because it meant I could focus entirely on the rather brilliant piece of writing that opened the season – Luke Barnes’ The Girl Who Looks Up At The Stars.
In the world of up-and-coming writers as they’re termed here, Barnes has already upped and come into the realm of ‘writers whose work I will definitely go and see’. His Bottleneck was a heartbreaking delight and the underdog charm of The Saints was a highlight of the summer for me, and there was no disappointment here with a tough but tender portrayal of a young woman struggling to hold onto her dreams in the drudgery of life in a depressed town in the north west of England.
Katie’s got a plan. Katie’s got several big plans actually. She’s going to smash her exams and get into a great college, she’s going to get her poetry published in an anthology, she’s going to invest her inheritance from her grandmother and become filthy rich, she’s going to, she going to, she’s going to… What Barnes adroitly unpicks is the notion of hopeless aspirations, doubtless fed by a certain brand of television programme. You hear Siralan in her mentions of graft, the X Factor in the sneering at Tesco as a job opportunity and as actual reality wins out over reality TV, it is hard not to feel that it’s more than her dreams that are being dashed.
Being the Royal Court, it can call on great actors to form great companies who can deliver the goods with just a couple of days rehearsal. Here we were blessed with Natalie Gavin (recently so good in The Crucible) as the beautifully moving Katie, ably supported by the impossibly youthful Nicola Stephenson as her mother, and Rez Kempton (currently doing good things in Little Revolution) and Katherine Rose Morley in a pair of smaller roles each. Whether you take your lunch with you or not, I reckon this will be a season not to miss.