Review: Wasted, Jack Studio Theatre

A refreshed and refreshing new look at Kae Tempest’s gorgeously lyrical Wasted at Jack Studio Theatre

“You know what your problem is, mate? You just sit around, expecting life to happen for you.~Waiting for it all to just land in your fuckin’ lap…“

MICA Theatre’s name stands for Matters I Care About, this brand-new theatre company choosing to make an apposite statement with its debut production, reviving Kae Tempest’s ode to South London-living in a theatre in deepest Lewisham. I first saw Wasted back in 2014 via YouTube (when digital theatre was still a novel concept!) and was utterly blown away by my first taste of Tempest’s lyricism and voice. What is exciting about this production is how it maintains so much of that whilst making some boldly different choices.

Danny, Charlotte, and Temi are all going through something of a quarter-life crisis, particularly as they mark the 10 year anniversary of their best pal Tony. Finding themselves somewhere in their mid-20s and realising that life hasn’t necessarily panned out the way they thought it would, they each come to a set of crossroads that intersect with each others but also offers a divergent path. But to take a path means making a decision and the three of them need to figure out whether they can be, or even want to be, honest with themselves about the way forward.yourself, is it a choice even worth taking

There’s a deep note of tragedy that sings through Wasted that I’m not sure I fully clocked before (a consequence of being the wrong side of 40 as opposed to the wrong side of 30…?!). The sense of frustrated potential for those both alive and gone, of social stratification being so damn hard to escape, of chasing a level of happiness that doesn’t always recognise how good you might have it already. Tempest’s punchy poetry is full of layered vibrancy and achingly well-realised characterisation which shows us dreams as well as disillusionment.

Toby Clarke’s production plays to that as well by introducing Tony onstage, embodying that looming presence he bears in their lives – it is beautifully done. (Kudos for flipping Ted to Temi too.) With TJ Roderick and Joseph Peck’s sound design and Rupert Cross’ compositions, a cracking energy is conjured – matched by the saturated hues of Pablo Fernandez Baz’s pitch-perfect lighting – and it is hard not to want to tumble head-first into the (relative) freedom of their hedonism (or maybe I’m just getting old, hehe).

Clarke is aided immeasurably by the level of performance he has teased from his cast, vitally singing with authenticity which really isn’t always that easy to do. Ted Reilly’s Danny dreaming of success with a band which always seems just out of reach, Isabella Verrico’s Charlotte longing for escape from the humdrum reality of being a teacher, Seraphina Beh’s Temi a little too afraid that domesticity is all that awaits her. And Ruaridh Mollica’s ethereal and near-wordless Tony, a powerful reminder of just how much we hold those we’ve lost.   

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Wasted is booking at Jack Studio Theatre until 3rd December