Review: The Current at Belfast Waterfront
Perhaps best described as a play with music rather than a conventional musical, this latest work from the Pamela Cassells stable is a hard-hitting piece of drama by anyone’s standards.
The clever word play of the title of the piece – reflecting both the contemporary setting and nature of the piece and (without giving too much away) the potential dangers of a force of nature – conveys some deep and dark issues that effect all of our young people today.
Written by company founder, Pamela Cassells-Totton, this is a cutting-edge piece of theatre that takes a snap-shot of the events leading up to a terrible tragedy as five teenagers partake in a seemingly innocent camping adventure to celebrate the end of their summer term at school.
Beneath all of the apparently harmless teenage fun (with some great one-liners), banter and bravado, each of the five protagonists – so convincingly played here by Amelia Doyle, Sam Anderson, Ellie Lavery, Holly McConville and Michael Bradley – has simmering personal issues.
With his uneducated hard man approach, the jack-the-lad and funny Burnsy is the attention-seeking and self-appointed leader of the pack with swagger.
Jess is loud and easily led but, with a degree of conscience, could be hesitant and had some sort of plan for her future.
Although quieter, Nicki is a confident free-spirit from a broken home who missed her father’s influence, while the more privileged Clare is wise, mature and shy and the inexperienced Reece is thoughtful and caring.
Played out against a well-used multi-level set with atmospheric lighting and projections plus effective use of sound effects (I loved the calmness of the twittering birds before the turmoil of the fast-moving action began), the scene is set by the excellent chorus of young singers who return to the stage throughout.
Superbly directed by Cassells with sympathetic musical direction from the composer, Mark Dougherty, the music is suitably haunting, beautiful and, at times, foreboding, while the moments when the five solo singers reflect the inner thoughts of the five leading characters works really well.
Underage drinking, peer pressure and even class differences all surface as relevant issues for our young people and this powerful story of love, loss, regret, guilt and rejection holds many lessons for the younger generation.
The Current is a powerful piece of theatre that packs a lot into its hour-long duration and, as such, would be a perfect vehicle for schools, young community groups and teenage drama groups to tackle as it opens the door for further discussion and understanding of important issues.
Indeed, the uncomfortable and uneasy silence that descends upon every member of the audience during the final moving monologues is proof that, as a piece of drama, the important message of this work really does hit home in the end.
No matter what our feelings for the individual characters in this piece may be, by the end, each will have our sympathy and understanding … an additional message for us all that we should never judge anyone by first impressions as we all have our own individual story and set of circumstances that all too often are covered up by our public or peer-acceptable persona.
Good theatre can be used for different things: to entertain, to shock, to educate, while great theatre – like The Current – can do all three!
Pamela Cassells School of Performance
Waterfront Hall Studio Theatre, Belfast
Saturday 10 June
Photos: Little Acre Creations