Storm in a bedsit

Fringe round-up
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The Independent Culture
No allowances for age: the best parts of "Storming", this year's Royal Court Young Writers' Festival, demand to be seen entirely on their own merits, none more so than 18-year-old Lydia Prior's The Call. In a London bedsitter, Paul, an IRA terrorist, awaits an urgent phone call. With him is Aine, whose fiance Connell is at this moment meant to be assassinating the British prime minister. Aine herself is no terrorist. She simply needs to feel adored, and if that means becoming a Provo's accomplice, so be it.

Aine would say that she is not political, and nor, except in the widest sense, is The Call. As Connell's mission takes place off-stage, the focus stays tightly on the butterfly-brained child-woman Aine and her constant need to feel special. While Paul takes a nap, Aine ties up the phone, ringing her grandmother to boast she's on a business trip to London. Later, she wonders idly about the chances of Connell appearing on television, blithely ignoring the fact that this would mean he'd be caught. By the time "The Call" arrives, it's no surprise to find her locking lips with Paul.

Of the three adult writers whose plays receive full stage productions, it is Prior who has the finest ear, writing dialogue that sounds effortlessly colloquial yet fleshes out the characters a little more with every line. She can be funny, as well. "I think you're a psychotic bitch," says Paul. "That's fine," replies Aine, barely taking her eyes from Hello!, "because all the supermodels are too."

Aine would probably get on quite well with Mina, the central character of Backpay, by the 23-year-old South African Tamantha Hammerschlag. A slack-jawed, spoilt little white girl and university drop-out, Mina decides to visit Sophie, her black nannie from childhood. Mina is a walking disaster area, or at least she would be if she didn't always have one foot stuck in her mouth. "I think apartheid is our national obsession," she tells Sophie's family. Do the Germans worry all the time, she continues, "that they baked 6 million Jews in the oven?" Before long she has blundered into bed with Sophie's son and got pregnant. "It's like having worms," she tells the furious Sophie.

Backpay's small-scale domestic tragedy relies on a well-thumbed - some might say over-thumbed - plot. But whatever the play may lack in this area, it repays two-fold in the character of Mina. No "kaffir"-hater, unlike her mother, she is nevertheless a stranger marooned on a strange continent by apartheid's collapse. Asked why she bothered tracking down Sophie, Mina answers: "I came because I have nothing." It's a credit to the ambivalence of Hammershag's writing that you don't know whether to nod sadly at the truth of Mina's analysis or laugh at her presumption.

In all, six plays get stage productions. The Future is Betamax, by Nicholas Kelly (aged 23), is an Irish twentysomething flat-share drama, which never quite lives up to it snappy title; The Separation, by Matty Chalk (aged 11), imagines two brothers forced by their father to fight on opposite sides in the 1745 Jacobite rebellion; Drink, Smoking and Toking, by Stuart Swarbrick (aged 15), draws on his experiences as a teenager in a West Lothian village, with a dash of Trainspotting thrown in; and Business as Unusual, by Michael Shaw (aged 12), is set in an estate agency which employs an alien Mrs Mop. In case you're wondering, she uses her broom to communicate with Neptune.

Ambassadors Theatre, London (0171-565 5000) to 16 Nov

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