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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Mudlarks
Bush Theatre  Autumn 2012

Mudlarks has all the merits and, yes, limitations of a first play by a talented writer. 

Vickie Donoghue writes with passion and the determination that some under-represented voices be heard. She knows her characters and how they speak, she knows what she wants to say about them, and her dialogue rings true. 

On the other hand, she isn't completely in control of a plot that keeps meandering and losing focus, and she can't completely prevent her characters from lapsing into stereotypes. 

On a Thames mudflat so far downriver from London that the big city might as well be in Australia, three lads are hiding from the police after a prank gone sour. They threw a concrete block off a bridge onto a roadway just to disrupt traffic, but things went as bad as they could possibly go, and now the boys who had not much of a future to begin with panic at the prospect of their already limited horizons shrinking even further. 

Donoghue is absolutely convincing in depicting young men without the ability to imagine any future, so that the one who is actually working hard in school and applying to college is attacked as a traitor and ridiculed for his fantasy. 

But her three characters lapse too quickly into the cynical one, the dumb one and the hopeful one, despite the efforts of actors James Marchant, Scott Hazell and Mike Noble to keep them individualised. 

There are also a few too many loose ends and undeveloped subplots – one of them has mistreated his girlfriend and is afraid her brothers are after him, but they never appear and are forgotten. One has a younger brother who keeps being mentioned but not made use of, and there's an odd scene in which a disturbingly ringing cell phone isn't just turned off. 

These are all beginner's errors and flaws, and there is every reason to believe that Donoghue's next play will build on her strengths and overcome her weaknesses, so the main reason to see Mudlarks may well be for the pleasure of being in on the beginning of a promising playwright's career.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Mudlarks - Bush Theatre 2012  

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