views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Krool Britannia
The Rabbit Hole
23rd August 2016


Publicity image for Krool Britannia

Photography © Shay Rowan

Teenagers can be cruel. At a time when you're just starting to figure out your identity, make sense of the world, and get that elusive kiss or shag, all your insecurities and vulnerabilities are exposed. In Krool Britannia, the teenage perception of school and street is brought to life with all the banter, bullying, gossip, and bravado that goes along with it.

Richey (Oliver Knight) is a troublemaker. He doesn't care for rules or teachers, but he enjoys humiliating and torturing the weaker kids like fat Bogey (Ed Clements), doing drugs on street corners, and kissing girlfriend Kitty (Francesca Olivia Tudor-Whelan). Bizarrely, Richey does have a soft spot for one oddball though, mate Nate (Thomas George Whiting), the softly spoken, intelligent, teacher's pet who has a penchant for reeling off facts at inappropriate moments. Nate struggles to navigate the teenage world and is at a loss for conversation when left alone with a girl (Georgina Ezuanyamike), but somehow manages to say most of the right stuff when with Richey. As so often happens, Nate is secretly in love with Kitty and has to endure her endless kissing sessions with Richey. However, on one humiliating day something changes, leading to a terrifying chain of events.

Writer Steve Valentine and director Diane Page do a good job at creating a believable teenage world at the start of the play with Richey and Nate acting as both participants and narrators, introducing the audience to their lives through lyrical outpourings. The teenage slang, familiar scenes like teasing Bogey for the food he is eating, and the sloppily worn school uniforms all feel relatable. The portrayal of the adults, however, is a little lacking. Teacher Mistress B (Ezuanyamike) is shown to be a distant, childless mother hen, desperate to make her pupils her kids. As a former teacher, I don't know anyone (childless or otherwise) who went into the profession as a kind of substitute for having kids, so I'm not keen on the use of this lazy stereotype. Putting that aside, her character just didn't feel very developed. While I can appreciate that the adults are intentionally meant to be lacking as role models, the pantomime portrayal just didn't work for me.

Criticisms about Mistress B aside, I really enjoyed the first half of the show. There are some good performances from the young cast, particularly Knight as Richey, and the clever, poetic lyrics used in the initial narration work well. The second part, however, felt rushed and rather one-dimensional. Although Valentine claims to show how children become killers, I don't think the production achieves this. There seemed to be a leap from nasty yet typical teenage behaviour to mass murders, with little build up as to how we got there. The short timeframe (the play comes in at under an hour) probably doesn't help here, since it doesn't allow for much character development. Nevertheless, the change from criticising violence and only reluctantly going along with beatings one minute to becoming a fully-fledged rapist and killer the next is a bit much, however upset you might be. I would like to see a bit more of the in-between stages next time. Whilst there are some decent moments in the second half, like the police interviews following the first murder, the initial jump in personality is disjointed.

Despite the issues, there are some good parts to the production, not only in the writing and direction but also the acting. Next time, a bit more thought needs to be given to the logic and believability of events though, and the characters' development would benefit from being more visible.

Krool Britannia opened on 12th August and runs until 28th August 2016 at the Rabbit Hole, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Hampstead (Northern)

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