The last weekend of November saw me at the Conquest Theatre, and a double bill by the Youth Theatre featuring plays by both Barbara Hockley and her brother Rob - a talented duo.
The first half was a tightly-written forty minute drama by Rob Hockley called Seeing Things. Dealing with the confused fantasies of a group of young teenagers, this could have been either grim or embarrassing, but the author had somehow combined acute observation of how real teenagers think and speak with his own wit and lightness of touch in such a way as to involve an audience of all ages.
The star of the show was the geeky and utterly socially inept Brian, played by Alex Cofield so well we began to wonder if he hadn't revealed a best kept hidden side to his real character. Disturbed by apparitions whenever he felt heightened sexual tension, he decided to find out if they were real by trying to tape-record them, calling in his best mate Stuart and a group of Stuart's ex-girlfriends to keep the 'thing' level as high as possible.
Stuart, played with nonchalant loucheness by Liam Stobart, was a self-assessed babe magnet with such overweening self confidence that not only did he not notice the clumsiness of his advances, but neither did his ex-girlfriends, who ended up begging to re-establish their relationships.
The three girls were particularly well written, I thought. Each was given an individual character of her own, and the chance to earn our sympathy. Mary Ann Wall (Jo) was affectionate, generous and rather naively looking for romance, while Bethanie Evans (Belinda) was mostly out for fun, and Vicky Stack (Andrea) looking for what she could get. They were loyal friends, however, and tried to support Jo until the discovery of the tape-recorder under the bed led to a classic sit-com farce of misunderstandings, confused explanations, and eventually a happy resolution.
This was a slickly performed and clearly very well-rehearsed play, that required no concession at all by the audience towards the youth of the cast. They all performed with energy, pace and the assurity that only comes from total confidence in their fellow actors, and there were lots of little bits of character-defining stage business that suggested considerable exploration of each part. Brian's bedroom and the drawing-room downstairs were simply but well depicted, and the action switched seamlessly between the two. It kept us both cringing and laughing from start to finish, and in the end keen to see more of Rob Hockley's work at The Conquest.