You Can See the Hills, Young Vic, London
Tuesday 05 May 2009
Smashing another boy to the ground, getting a girl pregnant when he is 14, cheering the near-rape of another – a standard adolescence in Oldham, it seems, according to this play. But what is most appalling about Adam's life is that he is not the product of a violent or broken home. He lives in a house owned by his parents, whom he loves and respects. Their circumstances are modest, but there is no want or anxiety. Yet Adam grows up without morals, without culture, alternating between excited indulgence and glum passivity.
The tone of You Can See the Hills is not, however, a gloomy one. Matthew Dunster's writing and direction and William Ash's sensitive and appealing performance as Adam have a chipper lightness, and there are many amusing moments to savour, such as the rituals of teenage courtship. Adam startles himself by telling a girl that he fancies her: "You don't do this – you ask your mate to ask her mate." The girl later allows him to remove her clothes and caress her, but insists on the presence of a friend silently munching biscuits and drinking tea.
Nor is Adam an unsympathetic figure, even when he gives his girlfriend, on hearing that she is pregnant, and, later, that she has had an abortion, the same two-word reply. His refusal to hold a grudge (he forgives the teacher who goes berserk and assaults him) and his tears at a film about illegal immigrants show us his essential sweetness, and when he behaves despicably we can see why: his parents haven't provided any proper guidance. Adam is in thrall to his classmates and to mob psychology, terrified of seeming weak and inviting isolation or ridicule. But, in their own terms, the Oldham parents are behaving responsibly and "realistically". A father looks after his 15-year-old daughter by driving her and the 14-year-old Adam home from a club where they regularly get drunk.
The play would benefit from cutting, especially of Adam's fashionably noble moment of applauding an AIDS sufferer and some of the puerile sexual reminiscences. More detail is needed, however, on social matters – we never know anyone's job. Anna Fleischle provides an evocative set, where Adam either tells the raw truth under hot lights or gazes to the tranquillity of the Pennines, so near and yet so distant.
To 9 May (020-7922 2922; www.youngvic.org )
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Taylor Swift, 1989 - album review: Pop star shows 'promising signs of maturity'
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - review: Silly, sensational but still sensitive
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth sent home in double firing
Breaking Bad season 6 hoax: Vince Gilligan has not confirmed a new series
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are