Paul T Davies reviews Kenny Emson’s play Plastic at the Mercury Theatre Colchester.
28 April 2018
Winner of the inaugural Mercury Theatre Playwriting Competition in 2016, Kenny Emson is a playwright steeped in his Essex roots. His environment is the docks, the marshes, high rise estates and Essex boys and girls, families and despair eased by alcohol and drug adventures. It all sounds a bit stereotype, but his Essex is not the only way Essex, his work is visceral and gripping. Plastic may just be his most accomplished play yet, presented in a brilliant production by Poleroid Theatre at the Mercury last week.
Kev, Ben, Jack and Lisa obsessively return to the same points in their history, doomed to recount and repeat their lives, the bullying in school, the pressures, the moment Kev fails in the All Essex Cup Final, condemned to perpetual failure for the rest of his life by his society, where football prowess is prized above all else. The four actors are outstanding, riding the beat and poetry of the text with ease. There’s not a fag paper between them in terms of character realisation, passion and storytelling- Mark Weinman an excellent, haunted Kev, older but in love with Lisa, sassy, confident mesmerising Madison Clare. Jack, a typical lad, trying to make his way in his world, is brought to superb life by Louis Greatorex and Thomas Coombes outstanding as bullied, haunted Ben, his refrain of “Think Columbine, Think Virginia Tech, think Sandy Hook”, and his purloining of a scalpel leading you to an expected attack carried out by him. But Emson cleverly pulls the rug out from the audience, and the meaning of the play’s title becomes horrifically clear. There is a superb sequence where Jack and Lisa repeat the word, “Blink”, and imagine their futures- that turn out to be nonexistent for them. Director Josh Roche’s gripping and powerful production unfolds on a simple yet effective set by Sophie Thomas, with Peter Small’s lighting design pulsing with the beat of the spoken word.
Emson’s script grips you by the collar and leaves your barely breathing as his story pins you into your seat. At the end of the 70 minutes you’re taking a deep breath to re-enter your world. It arrived at the Mercury following a successful run at the Old Red Lion in Lion, and I am willing the theatre Gods to grant this extraordinary play further life. Best Fringe production I have seen so far this year.