A colourful, vibrant celebration of how it feels to be young and different in today’s society. Keith Saha has developed a production that is going to start important conversations and that is testament to the honesty of the stories and the real issues that they explore.
Structured as a collection of four short stories following four young British people that have to deal with issues not limited to homelessness, ableism and financial difficulties, the play presents an earthy realism, and the representation is broad and necessary.
As a whole, the piece is a sensory delight. Visually and audibly the three companies that created this show, 20 Stories High in a co-production with Graeae, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse and LEEDS 2023 have produced a space that is inclusive and wholesome. Not only does it have a BSL translation throughout, the use of visual prompts and sound are important too. As an example, Grace Savage, the play’s resident DJ and beatboxer, brings another level of bounce and bass to emphasise the depth onstage in this hip-hop style gig theatre performance.
A standout performance came in the last of the four stories. Maisy Gordon (as Katy), is a bright, proud and loud voice that fit perfectly on centre stage. She held the audience’s attention throughout and could handle the light and shade of Katy’s raw story. In this case, the best was saved ‘til last.
There was talent in heaps in this cast, yet I feel that that could have been pushed further at times in the performance. Just like in Jamal’s story (played by Jayden Reid), where the whole cast got involved creating the soundscape, there was ample opportunity for collaboration that was missed. A lot of the performance, specifically in the first half, cast members were watching on in the background which meant the spacer felt too open. If other cast members were used throughout, it would help blend the piece together as a whole.
If all cast members were used together, putting more bodies in each story, the stories wouldn’t feel so compartmentalised. I understand the intention of keeping each actor separate in their own world, however, when playing all the other characters in their own story, what each actor gains in the number of lines, they lose in naturalism and genuine reaction.
Nevertheless, this is a needed show. There was a real openness in the performance and the energy of the cast was infectious. It is a great opportunity to watch something that is unlike the mainstream play and to get to hear voices that aren’t heard enough.
High Times and Dirty Monsters is playing at the Everyman until Saturday 14th October. Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/whats-on/high-times-and-dirty-monsters
Reviewer: Hannah Esnouf
Reviewed: 11th October 2023
North West End UK Rating: