We’re now in the second week of the Camden Fringe festival, the theatre and comedy extravaganza enjoying its 7th year. And running until Saturday is Covent Garden’s Tristan Bates theatre, which houses Never Properly Born’s Shelter, a collection of three mini plays written and directed by Ash Rowbin.
This triptych of plays – Strangers, Lovers, and Lost Friends – promised big things, claiming to question belonging and the meaning of youth in the 21st century. Each mini-play presented emotionally charged, if over familiar scenarios – the chance meeting at a party, a couple wondering whether to carry on, and old friends measuring the growing distance between them. Much of the direction was highly successful, particularly in the last two plays where the sense of loss, dying dreams and distant friends was palpable.
Performances from the cast of current RADA and LAMDA students were strong all round. Jamal Lowe’s portrayal of the powerlessness and anger felt within a relationship falling apart was particularly good.
Lost Friends, the final segment, was where the company came closest to realising its aims, here the evocative air of loss and betrayal cut close to the emotional heart of friendship. Its success owed little to the dialogue which was once again hit and miss; instead it was brilliant performances all round that elevated the action above the banal. In particular, the brilliant clashes between Matthew Simpson’s Andrew, stuck resolutely in the past, and Bexie Archer’s career-driven, future-thinking Claire provided the most enjoyable and well-acted moments of the entire evening.
Shelter didn’t deliver on its lofty aims. Restricted by overly conventional subject matter and dialogue, it at times lacked the realism it seemed so desperate to show. Yet it was still full of promise; hopefully we’ll be seeing much more to come from these talented young actors.
Words: Amelia Horgan