Sitting your driving test is a very nerve-wracking experience and as most people today tend to learn to drive, this play will resonate.
Robert Jones (Garth Oates) is sitting in the reception of the driving test centre with his driving instructor Kelly Preslie (Jemma Carlton), waiting to take his driving test. He is nervous and his instructor is not helping to calm him down with her inappropriate comments. John, the examiner (Phil Broomhead) breezes in to take him for his test and its all good so far. Rob visibly relaxes and he chats to the examiner, maybe relaxing a little too much. All of a sudden, he does an unscheduled emergency stop, as a man is standing in front of the car pointing a pistol at them and tells them to get out. At this point Rob has the choice of, do I do as I’m told? or do I hit the gas? He chooses to get out of the car as his driving test examiner John, is bundled into the boot.
Alfie Barnes (Matt Wakeford) needs a lift, but instead of calling a cab, he’s decided to hijack a driving school car and to pressurize a learner driver into taking him to where he wants to go. I know what you are thinking, why on earth would he do that? Alfie has decided that he will be less conspicuous when he tries to get away with the stolen money that he has with him if he pretends to be the driving test instructor.
Alfie is on his way to meet his girlfriend Lexy (Megan Rose Kennedy), so that they can get away together and start a new life. This is the last thing that Rob wanted to hear and wants nothing to do with it.
The rest of the play deals with how this situation progresses with explosive consequences.
The plotline moves at a very fast pace and the viewer has a feeling of having jumped into a runaway car. I would have liked to have seen the storyline develop at a slower place at the beginning of the play, because by the time the play ended, the action felt a little exhausting and repetitive. If the play took time to develop the back story and to build the characters, the action that happened later would have a greater impact and the variation in pace would make the action feel like a shock when it came. As human beings, we tend to shut off our minds when something becomes repetitive, so by altering this, there would be more of a build-up in the suspense.
By the same token, I realise that fear makes people panic, but by being a little less ‘shouty’ and by making some of the characters slower to reach for the gun, the play could add another dimension.
The slick stage management meant that scene changes came quickly, like a well-oiled machine and the driving test car was put together and dismantled without too much fuss.
There are many comedic scenes which are handled well, and all the performers teased the comedy from the script, which was written by Roddy Lynch. I love the concept of this play, it is innovative, and fun.
To see this play at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre as part of Camden Fringe Festival you can buy your tickets by following this link – https://camden.ssboxoffice.com/events/shut-up-and-drive/ and it runs until the 19th August.
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 18th August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★