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The Wall
The Hope Theatre
31st November 2014

★★★★☆

Publicity image for The Wall

Photography provided by The Hope Theatre

Following a brief trial run at the Old Red Lion, DC Jackson's coming-of-age story The Wall has transferred to The Hope. With both venues in Islington, it hasn't relocated very far, but the bricks of this tale have been lovingly reassembled into something equally if not more solid and and enduring.

Barry Gordon (Sam Watson) is reading a book down at the wall, when Michelle Montgomery (Emma King) rocks up and makes his summer a whole lot more interesting. She may be younger than him but she knows what she wants and the two begin a whirlwind summer fling, chock full of teen angst and pheromones. Barry's younger sister, Norma Gordon (Rosyln Paterson) is also trying to liven up her holidays and befriends Rab Maguire (Corran Royle), a self-proclaimed "working-class hero".

Paterson and Royle are the two returners and understandably have the the edge over the other two actors. Paterson's Norma is trusting, sweet and, despite being the baby of the bunch, knows more than everyone else thinks. Once again, Royle is superbly funny - it take a tight delivery to make a critic laugh twice at same jokes. Watson makes for a credible Barry. He's not the brightest spark, definitely not the most experienced with girls, but he's warm and we truly believe he's a slightly awkward 17-year-old, waiting nervously for his retakes and unsure what the hell he's doing with the rest of his life. He slips into the role easily however King changes the dynamic from the previous staging with her Michelle. Initially I thought she was pushing it with her playing age and sharper demeanour, but the more time she spends with us, the more natural her character feels.

With David Ricardo-Pearce joined by a new co-director in the form of Marianne Oldham, there are a few subtle tweaks elsewhere too. Some of the jokes are left to hang in the air for longer - the increased pause always carefully calculated to eke out the maximum laughs. It's a small alteration that it gives the production a more polished feel. The characters run in and around the audience between scenes, emphasising their youthful exuberance, but I'm not really sure what the urinating teen really added. It wasn't shocking, it didn't offend yet nor it didn't serve much of a purpose.

This is the first show at The Hope Theatre under artistic director Matthew Parker's leadership, and the theatre has been fully renovated, allowing for the layout to be reset in thrust. With the audience surrounding three sides of the wall, it feels intimate - this is perfect for a tale where the protagonists are stuck in a claustrophobic environment.

The back wall has been covered in graffiti (after all the repainting work, that must have been painful), with design consultant Olivia Altaras giving a splash of colour to the set and highlighting the teens' boredom. It's no grand Banksy-esque mural; it's a series of tags and misspelled slogans created by kids with no outlet for their energy. I must admit, I'd always pictured the wall as an old stone affair in an overgrown patch of woodland, but it doesn't really matter where in Stewarton you find this wall as long as it's obvious there's very little to do there.

Jackson's writing captures a lot of difficult emotions. The Wall is a poignant story which moves, surprises and beguiles. It's so refreshing to hear properly thick Scottish accents on stage, complete with regional slang. There's talk of Mayford Road Productions staging the other two plays in the Stewarton Triology next year. Having seen The Wall twice now, I've grown fond of Barry, Norma, Michelle and Rab, and I'd like to see what happens to them after that microwave of a summer comes to an end. It's a gem of a show; wish you were there.

The Wall opened on 28th October and runs until 15th November 2014 at the Hope Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Highbury & Islington (Overground, Victoria)



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