Royal Court's Young Writers Programme has turned up yet another winner.
Of The Moment
has its minor flaws, but Anya Reiss, 17 when she wrote it, is
unquestionably a real writer. Her limitations are of technique, and
will undoubtedly soon be mastered, but the talent is all there.
with a family beset by a rash of small crises. Father has had an affair
and lost his job, and he and mother seem trapped on a plateau of
sniping and bickering from which they can't escape. Twelve-year-old
daughter has the usual twelve-year-old problems, including a crush on
the twentyish boarder, who's got his own catalogue of normal issues.
Everybody bounces off everybody, a few potentially major missteps are narrowly avoided, and things carry on, a little better in some ways and a little worse in others.
Among the play's
strengths are its clear affection for its forgivably flawed characters
and the ways it captures the sometimes messy complications of ordinary
reality. Reiss knows exactly how a gaggle of young girls mix closeness
and casual bullying, how a married couple can trap themselves in a
pattern of sniping in which there are no safe or innocent things to
say, and how a young man who really does know better will still have
trouble resisting temptation handed him on a silver platter.
impressively, the young playwright knows how very close high drama and
broad farce can be, and how easily the most serious and heartfelt
moments can tip over into comedy.
fully mastered yet is construction - how to keep the various strands
and plot lines from occasionally seeming to come out of separate plays,
how to use her secondary characters (the girl’s buddies, the boy’s
girlfriend) most effectively, and especially how to point everything
toward a satisfying conclusion rather than just letting it stop at an
almost arbitrary point.
those, as I
said, are just matters of technique and easily learned, and even here
they are minor quibbles that don’t really hurt the play.
Herrin brings out all the play’s strengths, particularly its warmth and
well-wishing toward its characters, and effectively papers over most of
its small flaws. Newcomer Shannon Tarbet makes a remarkable
professional debut, believably and sympathetically capturing all the
pain and ridiculousness of being not-quite-thirteen.
Sharon Small make us care for the parents who really want to find a way
out of the corner they’ve bickered their way into, while still letting
us laugh at some of the forms their warfare takes, and James McArdle
makes us believe in an honourable lad in a creepy situation.
The next play Anya Reiss writes is likely to be brilliant. See this one so you can say you were there at the start.
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- Spur of the Moment - Royal Court 2010