The title of this show may be telling, but it still didn't prepare me for the surprise of the set – which itself created a startling, if eerie anticipation of what was to come.
Seven ropes hang across the back of the stage, each with a personal artefact (one a vodka bottle, another a camera), and a handwritten letter tied to it. A central rope lies flat, vertically across the stage, its noose making the circumference of a wide circle. Later, this circle is spot-lit, as individual actors tell their own version of the central tale – stepping within its boundary to well-considered dramatic effect.
Seven characters, interlinked in fate, perform the events which lead to their collective demise. They are four young friends, their teacher, his daughter, and a dad. Their story – "devised and written by the cast and creative team" – is believable in its details, but perhaps unlikely overall; in Byteback Theatre Company’s hands, though, suspension of disbelief poses no problem, allowing immersion and consideration of some serious issues we face in society today.
An issue of bullying wrapped up in a game of teenage dares is shown to have more serious consequences than the young perpetrators might ever have conceived. The outcome is tragic for every one of them – and those involved with them, too. There’s a lesson here about perceived pressure to fit in with the group, even if it means doing what you know is wrong. Like many of the shows I’ve seen this year, helpline numbers are given out with the publicity, for those whose experiences resonate with the show.
I especially liked the interweaving of drama and poetry; each character stepped inside that circle at some point, to deliver a monologue in verse revealing the impact of the events which unravelled, unplanned. The events themselves are acted out outside the circle. This worked really well as a device to underline the difference between group mentality and individual perspective, or the inner and outer worlds.
On the minus side, I didn’t like the artificial portrayal of anxiety – which to me resembled a group of people shivering, with unnecessary menace. But I recommend this show for its creative production and direction, and its effective devised script. It's very well-executed by this youthful set of actors, who evidently have a more positive future than the unfortunate, morbid characters they bring to life. Shame it’s only on at Greenside for a very short run.