Niall Phillips’ set is untamed and earthy, a visceral energy that beautifully matches his directing style. Mercy Phillips pumps teenage angst through the speakers and the atmosphere is set for a production that grabs you by the shoulders, relentlessly shaking until you sit up and pay attention. Frankie Meredith’s debut play Turkey is just such a show, one full of detailed, observational narrative that looks at the lengths Madeline (Peyvand Sadeghian) is prepared to go in order to get the one thing she wants above all else. There are times when this hot topic presents itself as lukewarm but these are fleeting lapses in Phillips’ otherwise high-octane interpretation, complete with razor-sharp focus and gritty determination.

Peyvand Sadeghian & Harriet Green

Madeline (Sadeghian) needs a sperm donor to have a baby with her quietly reticent partner Toni (Harriet Green) – a believable chemistry between these two is instantly established and comfortable. Green is the reserved counter to Sadeghian’s explosive assertiveness, the two a chalk and cheese pairing that convey personality through a series of relatable, detailed exchanges. Money problems, shopping for supper and future aspirations are all bread and butter conversations in Meredith’s grounded storyline. It’s awkward, well-paced and instantly comforting to see a show that projects reality so readily, a contrast to the more abstract set that the actors inhabit.

The beauty in Turkey is in its various eccentricities and no character has more of these than Michael (Cameron Robertson), the unwitting sperm donor who just happens to be Madeline’s dead ex-boyfriend’s divorced father. Robertson attempts youthful vigour, personifying an embarrassing, middle-aged man who desperately tries to stay relatable and relevant. Even as an ancillary character, his performance is layered – a mid-life crisis contained within a cardigan and reading glasses. This is Meredith’s strongest character, delivered by Robertson with laudable conviction. The developing interaction between Michael and Madeline is a tad predictable, but no less convincing – a complex series of manipulative twists and turns that Phillips expertly navigates in his direction.

Peyvand Sadeghian & Harriet Green

The central performances of Sadeghian and Green on their own are less believable, too often imbalanced and off kilter. But when combined, the overall atmosphere feels complete – Sadeghian has passion whereas Green grounds and paces the character. The two actors complement each other in a way that only a supposedly strong relationship can, yet Turkey is still sophisticated enough to throw a spanner in the romance without compromising the resulting performances. Phillips and Meredith as a team prove they can deliver even when the narrative intentionally shifts and stirs.

The ending to Turkey is abrupt and unwelcome, a blunt exchange that doesn’t leave any room for closure or satisfaction. But as a debut play, Meredith proves highly capable of writing thoughtfully about reality. In combination with Phillips’ rock solid vision, Turkey is unapologetic and full of conviction, a rousing and passionate show.

 

★★★★☆

To read more about Turkey, which plays The Hope Theatre until 14 October 2017, follow the company on Twitter (@TurkeyThePlay) or visit the website – www.thehopetheatre.com

Follow the link to an interview with writer, Frankie Meredith.