Lash, written by Philip Stokes, and performed by Jack Stokes, was the most impressive thing I’ve seen at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Written in lyrical, rhyming verses, it tells the story of a young man, Sonny, on a night out after work. Philip Stokes has crafted a remarkable script, which seamlessly blends comedy, tragedy and political commentary whilst never losing our protagonist’s voice. Despite speaking in rhyme, Sonny feels real and relatable. He’s working a job he doesn’t like, with people he has little in common with, and just wants to escape the harsh realities of existence with a good night out.
Throughout the night, Sonny has run ins with drug dealers, colleagues and the local homophobic and toxically masculine ‘hard men’. Each of these encounters reveal something new about both Sonny, and another layer of the political message Philp Stokes wants to convey. But the messages are never so heavy-handed that the show stops being entertaining. Instead, they feel entirely natural to the character and the story. We understand why Sonny thinks the way he does, why he’s angry at the world. And he’s not claiming to have a solution, he’s just questioning the status quo. As he says, ‘I’m not a politician, I’m a lad with a vision’. The political commentary also never detracts from Sonny himself. His journey remains the focus throughout, from his relationship to his father, to his motivation for going out. I won’t spoil the precise nature of his development, but for such a short (and funny) show he undertakes an impressive arc.
Jack Stokes provides an absolute powerhouse of a performance. Firstly, the sheer amount of energy required to keep up the pace of the show is remarkable. But beyond that, he exudes charisma that keeps you engaged from the moment you walk in, to the second you leave. His exaggerated, but nonetheless believable, facial expressions provided endless entertainment. As well as this, he transitioned remarkably between the various roles he’d have to play, providing alternative voices and physicality for characters such as Sonny’s father, his work colleague Taylor, and his boss Nathan. Although technically these characters are just Sonny’s imitations, each one felt well realised and distinct. In the quieter moments when the background drum and bass cuts out, he is just as brilliant. I won’t give these moments away, but it is remarkable how quickly he can transition from a drink and drug fuelled mania to a moving introspection.
The highest compliment I can give this show is that I hated having to look away to make a note in my book. I will definitely be going again, and this time I don’t want to miss a second.
Reviewer: Ben Pearson
Reviewed: 9th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: