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Theatre Review: Holloway Jones

15 August 17 words: Adrian Reynolds

Teen crime drama packs a punch

One of the challenges of writing a show for 20 performers is just what they all get to do. I was reflecting on that as I looked at the teen actors lined around the Neville Studio at Nottingham Playhouse, dressed in blue and orange with facial markings in front of a big screen.

Initially I was thinking we’d be in for a dystopian science fiction story given the look of it all. I was half-right: this was dystopian, but set a few years ago. The orange and blue helps unite the look of the cast and give things a tribal feel, which suits the drama, set as it is among young people finding their way in life, wanting to explore who they are and starting to discover where that might take them.

The protagonist is Holloway Jones herself, called that because her mum is in prison. Holloway is set on other things though, hoping her skills on a mountain bike will take her to the Olympics. And maybe they will… only she has a boyfriend who’s bad news, whose controlling ways and stolen gifts lure her away from the coach who’s doing his best to keep her on track.

The story itself is pretty simple and doesn’t deliver much in the way of surprise. What makes it work is the well-researched script by Evan Placey, who created it initially for Synergy Theatre Project, and various strong and promising performances from the cast. Holloway is played by two girls, one playing her at age 12, and one when she’s in her later teens, and both felt authentic in conveying the story of a young girl who sees her mum only when she visits her in prison, and is vulnerable to the supposed love of a baby-faced bad boy.

As for that cast of 20, some of them got strong roles as Holloway’s mother, and her best friend, while the others functioned as a kind of chorus. At times they’d speak with the voices of Holloway’s peers, faced with the same kind of choices as her to varying degrees. Their world is a morally complex one, and never more so than when it comes to a theme best summed up in the line ‘snitches get stitches’ – when you’re operating under the noses of adults who are going to punish you anyway, the only difference between shopping someone for stealing chocolates and stabbing someone is one of degree.

Clear and vibrant, with performances in key roles that show great promise, Holloway Jones is a show that did the cast and team of Nottingham Playhouse Summer School Youth Theatre proud.

Holloway Jones was at Nottingham Playhouse Thursday August 10 to Saturday August 12 2017.

Nottingham Playhouse Youth Theatre website

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