It’s the story of Kirsty (Kelsey Short), growing up in Thamesmead. She goes to school, has a group of friends and is looking for boys. Her parents (Jasmin Gleeson and Michael Flanagan) fight constantly, her brother (Nathan Lister) harbours a secret and all she cares about is drinking, partying and escaping it all. Cos that’s F*ckingLifeMate.

Scott James writes an observational look at modern life around the estate, living below the breadline with a comedic flair. For the most part, F*ckingLifeMate has points of clever conceptual consideration, but it also has a fair few instances of caricature. This is ‘in yer face’ theatre, but it’s not the most original, or the most intelligent, of stories. The narrative needs more layering, some deeper understanding of the ancillary characters and a less scatty overall approach.

The haphazard attitude continues through the direction. A whiteboard is employed to demarcate the days and times, as if the scene changes can’t do that by themselves. The backing sound design puts ragtime in with today’s chart toppers – there is a clear vision here, but it’s not a strong enough realisation.

F*ckingLifeMate Bread and Roses Theatre

Kelsey Short (image courtesy of Robert Piwko)

Even the personalities themselves feel stereotypical – the working-class dad who spends his spare time down the pub; the friend who is so confident in her sexuality that she parades it around with machismo; the ditsy blonde; the shy, posh girl who is forced to attend a comprehensive high school. Each character behaves exactly as expected such that any twists in the tale are too obvious and lacking impact. One boy comes out as gay, one teenage fumble turns into an abortion, one parent is domestically violent with the other – are these meant to be shocking plot points? They may be realistic, but there lacks drive in this tale.

F*ckingLifeMate Bread and Roses Theatre

Roisin Gardner, Samantha Jacobs & Jasmin Gleeson (image courtesy of Robert Piwko)

The acing too is a mixed bag. As the lead narrator, Short spends most of her time on stage and thankfully delivers the most convincing performance. She’s pragmatic, comfortable in herself and at ease with her environment – the level-headed friend that we could all do with in our lives. But the others don’t match up, a set of superficial supporting performances that lack depth or backstory. The acting isn’t bad per se, it simply lacks punch and purpose. Lister makes the most of the part he’s given, but the remainder are forgettable, verging on amateur at times.

F*ckingLifeMate has a strong attitude about it, the kind of show that doesn’t care about opinion and simply enjoys itself regardless. Clearly there is a cohesive team behind this show and that’s heart-warming. But it tries to make too many points and as such leaves a numbing feeling where one of enthusiasm should be.

 

 

★★☆☆☆

F*ckingLifeMate runs at The Bread And Roses Theatre until 10 March 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.