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LIT Review - Nottingham Playhouse

25 September 19 words: Tanya Louise

With quotes like, “I’m making him work for it. Got him to buy me a pack of Tangfastics and a can of Lilt before I showed him my tits", we just had to check it out. 

Looking back, it's no wonder we grow up into disillusioned adults.

Raised on fairy tales and happy ever afters, we're unprepared for when it all goes wrong. Meet Bex Bentley ("Like the car - proper classy"); in fact you probably have. We all know somebody like her or maybe we even see a little of ourselves in Sophie Ellerby's leading character in LIT, which is why it is so relevant to so many.

Maybe that's why we find her so endearing? Based on her actions alone we probably shouldn't. She bunks off School, back chats, disobeys her ever-suffering foster-mother and shows her tits for pack of Tangfantastics and a can of Lilt. But alone in the world after the death of her Mother, what Bex really craves is love.

The play begins with Bex saying goodbye to her own child, telling her that love lays within and that she must love herself. Ironic then that vulnerable Bex throughout her young life looks for love in all the wrong places; as we go back we find out how she ended up where she is now - head strong and seeking attention to make her feel wanted whilst pushing away those that really care.

Of course we love it because it explores the turbulent teenage years of a 14-year-old growing up in Nottingham. There's a touch of 'Shane Meadows' about the characters, working-class and contemporary. Sophie Ellerby's inspiration for the story actually came from her experience studying young women and mothers in the prison system and Eve Austin is a credit to her work putting in a stunning performance as the troubled teenager, capturing that real raw emotion penned by Ellerby gripping the audience from start to finish, leaving them laughing one minute and fighting back the tears the next. Even after everything, Bex still believes there can be an idyllic future ahead and has us almost believing it too. She is an actress to definitely look out for in the future.

On the whole the women steal the show. Supporting is the talented Tiger Cohen-Trowell as swotty unlikely friend Ruth with her teen fiction fantasies and Maxine Finch as Sylvia, Bex's foster-mother; a woman with her own demons to battle. At the end of the day, when it comes down to it, what they all have in common is the need to be wanted.

Sensitively handled by Director Stef O'Driscoll, the play is split into several short chapters, the names of which are held aloft as a cut out sign by the actors casting a shadow on the wall behind them. A simple yet effective move; a little like the set design by Minglu Wang which sees large shaped lighting rigs moved about by the actors to form scenery. It might sound strange but it works and adds to the rawness of the whole piece.

LIT as a title could refer to so many aspects of the play - Intoxicating, fun and firey, and to be honest, it's not a bad way to sum it up. The best play I've seen in a long time!

LIT runs at the Nottingham Playhouse from Tuesday 24 September until Saturday 5 October

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