I’ve been following poet and rapper Kate Tempest since first catching her a few years ago at NW5 writer Salena Godden’s legendary Book Club Boutique nights, where she’d silence the boozy room with a winning combination of words and humility. Check out the awe-inspiring Icarus, above.
And now on Saturday her debut play, Wasted, is finishing its short run at the Roundhouse.
The premise is simple: three old friends, Charlotte, Danny and Ted, mull over the mundanity of their lives on the anniversary of a mutual friend’s death. They discuss the need to change things. They have a night out getting wasted.
The set is appropriately pared down, with a backdrop alternating between filmed South London locations, during their ensemble scenes, and the solo faces of each character, when they take to the mike for some perceptive monologues.
The three young actors – Lizzy Watts, Ashley George and Cary Crankson – deliver convincing performances, especially in the brilliant party scene, with its hazy aftermath. But the play belongs to Cary Crankson’s Ted, the one with the crap shiny-suited job who’s abandoned all hope of being fulfilled (and he’s only 25).
At the scrag end of their hedonistic night out, he and Danny, a wannabe musician, discuss happiness. No-one’s happy, Ted says, but certain things make him smile, like seeing two cars the same colour lined up, or when someone makes a cup of tea just how he likes it, or his girlfriend laughs with a mouthful of food. And, he adds, isn’t that enough?
These are lines delivered with intensity and passion, their images lingering afterwards, recalling themes in Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie, or Chekhov’s Seagull. Sure, the play occasionally jars (such as the opening joke about being in a ‘theatre’) and the plot (as much as there is one) is functional, but the end result is punchy, visceral and hard-hitting. In short, it feels fresh.
So, a day in which nothing much happens becomes a day that may change everything. Or maybe not. But will tomorrow be the same again? That’s what this play is asking us to fight against.
Words: Stephen Emms