Review: The Awkward Years at The Other Room by Roger Barrington

Photo credits Kirsten McTernan

 

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

Matthew Bulgo’s somewhat uneven monodrama, relates the story of Lily, a twenty-something year old  girl trying to come to terms with her disordered existence.

I am having trouble making out the reason for the title. The Awkward Years in psychology refers to adolescence, that period in your teenage years full of angst and  difficulty communicating with your parents that many of us endure.

But Lily is not an adolescent. We discover that she has been employed as a swimming pool attendant for ten years and had also attended university. The sheer mundanessof this job, leads to her voluntary resignation after being confronted by her unrespected boss about her dozing off whilst on duty.  Lily is probably dozing off because of the somnolent repetitive nature of her job – she exclaims that in ten year, she has never had to rescue anyone.

When she dozes off, she dreams of drowning, thereby signifying her struggle for survival as a person. Maybe her outburst that she has never been called upon to rescue someone, means that she feels that she needs to save someone else from their plight.

Matthew Bulgo’s playlet, (running time 55 minutes) is at its best in the opening scenes where Lily relates her dissatisfaction after a bout of casual sex. “I thought about masturbation, but couldn’t be fucked” is one of a handful of funny lines. The playwright skillfully draws you in so that you like Lily and thereafter care about what she relates.

Rather like Harold Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” the utterance of the title, The Awkward Years, triggers off a transformation in the nature of the play. It is at this stage where the play weakens, where a rather  dull segment ensues where Lily outpours her angst to the audience.  However Bulgo retrieves the situation  in the final tender scene.

One thing that has impressed me since Dan Jones took over as Artistic Director of The Other Room is that under his stage direction, he manages to solicit outstanding performances from his actors. Lauren O’Leary has to release a gamut of emotions as Lily. With her attractive native Irish lilt she delivers her lines at times ferociously, (like a character in a  Sean O’Casey play), at others with a comedic touch of excellent timing.  On the basis of this performance, she is clearly a young actress to keep your eye on in the future.

I’m not sure whether Dan Jones’s use of robotic gyrating to display scene changes quite works for me. It does provide striking imagery well made use of by Angharad Evans effective lighting, but seems to get in the way a little of the natural flow of the dialogue.

Although there are similarities to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag”, Matthew Bulgo has penned an intelligent and entertaining short play, enhanced by an outstanding performance by Lauren O’Leary, which is worth travelling a distance to see.

“The Awkward Years” continues its run at The Other Room, Cardiff until 29th September.

http://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/seasons/autumn-2018/the-awkward-years-by-matthew-bulgo/

Due to pervasive language throughout and mature themes, the play is intended for an adult audience.

 

Roger Barrington

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