William Sutcliffe has written a school novel, a pre-university year-out novel, and is shortly to publish a flatshare novel. He would seem to believe in the old saw "write about what you know". Russell Labey's adaptation of the first of these is set in an unnamed London public school (not dissimilar to Sutcliffe's alma mater Haberdashers' Aske's), in which sixth-form narrator Mark finds himself confusingly obsessed with new arrival Barry.
It is probably a failing of mine that I almost always feel awkward about comedy of embarrassment, a genre of which "comedy of teenage hormones" is pretty firmly a subset. I must admit, then, to more often wincing in sympathy with Mark's serial petty humiliations rather than being able to accept the good-natured manner in which they are chronicled. It seems to me, too, that although Neil Henry as Mark has an easy and winning performance style, he is rather too knowing in his delivery – sitting on top of the script, as it were, rather than inhabiting it. However, I repeat that these are personal reservations, evidently shared by few in a packed audience; moreover, the play's ultimate message – that we shouldn't let sex and sexuality become such a big deal – is communicated more effectively than in most "ishoo-based" pieces simply by being raised so unfussily.
Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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