He's Talking, Cottesloe NT, London
Monday 14 July 2008
Over the past week, I've seen a series of shows involving (and sometimes about) young people and theatre. The worst was Disney's High School Musical. The best was He's Talking, beautifully performed in the Cottesloe by the Television Workshop, a youth group from Nottingham. Nicholas Wright's play was part of the National's New Connections project, which commissions dramatists to write for teenagers. After shows all over the UK, the best are invited to an NT showcase.
He's Talking is set in London in the Sixties. A former anti-apartheid activist hosts a reunion of her student anti-racist group. It's an edgy encounter as they recall the arrest a year previously of their leader, Luke. His silence ensured their freedom but the air is thick with mutual recrimination. Wright then deploys the eloquent device of replaying the scene several times with disturbing modifications. The upshot of the interrogation is different on each re-run and the reunion gets progressively sparser.
In a quietly devastating manner, the structure brings home the painful moral dilemmas facing liberal white South Africans of that era and the terrible consequences of betrayal.
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