O! Glorious Youth

Mon 10th – Sat 15th August 2015

reviews

Holly Willis

at 22:31 on 11th Aug 2015

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This fashionable show takes a stylised look at what it is to be young in inter-war Britain. It is slick and fast-paced, featuring a variety of characters and styles, which allows the cast to display a wide range of abilities. The Green Stag Theatre Company have chosen an interesting era to focus on, and have made a concerted effort to adopt the language of the Roaring Twenties in the script. The acting is often on the safe side, and the movement sequences and dramatic techniques used have more than a whiff of A-Level drama about them. It is an enjoyable production with great promise, but is bland: a bolder approach with a bit more energy would, I am sure, take it from ‘quite good’ to ‘extremely good’

Francesca Morton, in the role of mousy showgirl Nancy, is one of the better actors. She gives an intelligent and sensitive portrayal of a young girl who couldn’t be further from the glamorous flappers of the era, but who feels forced to become one anyway. Nick Verspeak also stands out in his ability to multi-role, beginning the show as an outlandish Italian futurist, and ending as angsty soldier Nick. Other actors simply did not give it their all. A very restrained Evelyn (Laura Waugh) desperately needs to be bigger and bolder with her movements, and is often monotonous in the delivery of her lines. Whilst flapper Dorothy is fun and flirty, Cleo, played by Chloe Cockram, can be a bit two-dimensional at times.

In many respects, this show could do with taking a good few more risks. Evelyn mimes smoking a cigarette when she could easily have a prop; Dorothy lip syncs a song when it would be far more impressive if she were actually singing; and when Nancy is criticised for being caked in make-up, it would make far more interesting viewing if she actually were so, rather than being entirely fresh-faced. The show is crying out to be shaken up, and a few innovative additions would improve it vastly.

O! Glorious Youth is a decent show, but severely lacking in ambition. A lack of confidence stops the well-written and carefully-considered script from fulfilling its potential, which is frankly a great shame. The costumes, script and talent are all there: all it needs now is to be brought to life.

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Liam Marchant

at 10:04 on 12th Aug 2015

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For a play about the gushing excitement of young hedonism, O! Glorious Youth is remarkably boring. War, class, gender, and sex all rear their thematic heads in this piece but, much like the play’s characters, remain unexplored throughout the performance.

Set between 1916 and 1920, O! Glorious Youth takes a look at pleasure seeking young toffs and scruffs who group around a Soho club during the First World War and its immediate aftermath. This is a neat conceit which should, on paper at least, bear plentiful dramatic fruit.

Notwithstanding, the performance is marred by over-effected 1920s mockney slang: “I’m not sweet on anyone, Eddy’s talking tripe”, Nancy (Francesca Morton) protests to her father (Jim Chapman) after a night spent in the company of loaded twits at the club; the sort of men possessed with posh Tourette’s, yelping ‘crickey’ and ‘chin-chin’ every other sentence. Although the frequent cries of ‘old boy’ and ‘cripes’ – terms now exclusively used by Beano characters and Boris Johnson – began as a pleasing novelty, their overuse throughout the performance soon feels lazy. For all its Brideshead posturing, O! Glorious Youth often feels more like a third-rate Jeeves fan-fiction.

Nick Verspeak redeems the play ever so slightly with a solid performance as Nicky, an East End boy who returns home from the war to find his sister has become a West End girl, his father a drunk, and his brother (Theo Walker) a lackey to bourgeois philanderers. And likewise Chloe Cockram offers a relatively subtle performance as Cleo, one of the club’s more cynical hostesses.

I'm also unsure if the overarching conflict of the play is either clear or meaningful enough to truly interest the audience. Nicky returns from the war to find that England isn't quite as puritanical as it was before he left – despite his sweetheart and siblings remaining in the same sleazy entertainment jobs prior to and following his absence: “So this is what I fought for, then”, the soldier laments upon meeting his loved ones again. If this is a rebellion of old against young, women against men, or even workers against the rich; then why is the pinnacle of conflict in the play marked by a solider getting slightly pissed off for no explicit reason?

O! Glorious Youth is unpolished to say the least. It is a real shame that the piece is as riddled with holes as a stinking hunk of Swiss cheese, when the cast’s unrealised potential flashes upon the audience sporadically throughout the play.

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