Kenneth Emson's Plastic expresses adolescent pressure in a way that gets to the heart of its emotions through verse. Always playful; sometimes comical; hauntingly ironic.

Poleroid Theatre’s Plastic, written by Kenneth Emson, is a beautifully lyrical memory play about those moments that define our passage into adulthood, but also what events define us as people. Director Josh Roche’s concept and directorial choices fantastically illuminate Emson’s text and utilise its moments in verse to great effect. This concept of illumination is carried to brilliant heights by Peter Small’s simple and incredibly effective lighting design.

Plastic Old Red Lion Theatre

Louis Greatorex & Madison Clare (image courtesy of Mathew Foster)

With prints running along the theatre’s bare stage that are indicative of a football pitch, Plastic’s four characters attempt to play the dangerous game of school life. The production doesn’t necessarily inform its audience of any nuanced experiences of what school life is like – it isn’t patronising in that sense, and welcomingly so. We all know that bullies are oftentimes victims themselves; that victims of bullying can often desire to take their suffering out on others. But Plastic focusses on the balance between action & inaction and the lasting effect this balance has on maturing young adults.

Plastic expresses adolescent pressure in a way that gets to the heart of the emotion through brilliantly written verse, with the helpful skill of Roche’s direction and the cast’s attention to detail. Emson’s grapple with rhyme is used as a highlighter to illuminate the central character’s thoughts. We might not hear every single word, but it doesn’t matter, because in those moments we get to the emotional root of the text. We experience more and are able to climb deeper into Plastic’s subtext because of it.

Plastic Old Red Lion Theatre

Mark Weinman, Louis Greatorex, Thomas Coombes & Madison Clare (image courtesy of Mathew Foster)

Matching the four characters, Hall’s lighting design sets four bulbs hanging from wheels that allow them to traverse horizontally through the space. It’s both aesthetically pleasing and functions to expand and shrink the theatre, which keeps the moderately sized space from feeling restrictive. This design is manipulated to great effect by the cast, who move the light to denote space and illuminate a specific memory, tap or hit them to change colour, and in times of heightened emotion can violently throw them towards each other. The lighting becomes a latch that we can hook onto in order to take us from scene to scene, which keeps Plastic from being too structurally complex to follow.

Plastic Old Red Lion Theatre

Madison Clare & Mark Weinman (image courtesy of Mathew Foster)

Roche’s production has a very strong stylistic identity, telling a well known story in a refreshing way. The synergy that both cast and creative team exhibit demonstrates Emson’s points with clarity and inventiveness. Plastic is at all times playful, sometimes comical, and never far away from being hauntingly ironic.

“Fake a smile, it will all be over soon”.

Disastrously, that’s clearly not the case.

 

 

★★★★☆

Plastic runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 21 April 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.