Theatre: Serving It Up Bush Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture
Twenty-two-year-old David Eldridge's debut opens on a concrete bench in a concrete playground in Hackney where Sonny and Nick, men by age but boys in spirit, while away the hours in a smoke-filled haze of chatter. Sonny is beginning to tire of the lad's lifestyle and hanker after the relative comfort of a steady girlfriend. Nick is beginning to feel bad about his affair with Sonny's mum. Elsewhere on the estate, Teresa fears she's pregnant but is determined to remain independent, while Wendy is running low of easy lays and reduced to considering Sonny and Nick. When Sonny blows their double-date by offending Teresa, the lads go on a bender which ends in a fight at a bus-stop.

The first half speeds by with some well-observed moments and enjoyably quick and light dialogue. The second half gets weighed down by some stodgy, awkwardly written near-monologues. The problem with the cult of the young male, which is so prevalent in British theatre at the moment, is that the drama is always limited by its subject. And you don't get more limited than Sonny. On ozone depletion: "My mum reckons only the wogs'll survive. Don't tell them." On community relations: "Nah, he wouldn't. He knows I'd cut him." The audience's delighted laughter at such witticisms comes from recognition, ironic distance and a feeling of superiority. But the appeal of inarticulacy as a theatrical device has a short shelf-life. When the playwright later tries to turn it on its head and impose a morality on the play, the result seems naive and unambitious. The play struggles to get beyond first-course juvenile comedy.

A shame because Jonathan Lloyd directs a fine cast, including the unnervingly crazed-looking Eddie Marsan as Sonny and Jake Wood as the latently sensitive Nick. Arbel Jones perfects the art of mumsy concern, slipping almost unnoticed into sexual interest, though the erotic potential of the cream cakes she uses to bait men with remains unexplored.

What you come away with is the dramatic equivalent of an unsatisfying supermarket own-brand sponge, which, as Sonny's dad points out, lacks the taste you get from the home-made variety made by mature and practised hands.

n To 9 March. 0181-743 3388

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