WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Trafalgar Studios 2
WHEN: 2/3 (matinee), runs to 1/4
We’re mulling over the breaking story of the audience being banned from eating in Imelda Staunton’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? when a group of uniformed schoolchildren walk in and their teacher hands out a giant bag of popcorn, which they share before curtain up.
- Read on for reasons including why Patsy Ferran is a name to watch out for
Appropriately for our younger audience members, Speech and Debate is a new play by Stephen Karam in which three misfit US college students bond over a sex scandal at their school and it examines what subjects are suitable for discussion in such an arena.
There are serious themes here but Speech and Debate works best in its many moments of comedy. The highlight is when our three-strong cast – Patsy Ferran (Treasure Island, the National) as a blogger with a Crucible fixation and showbiz ambitions; Douglas Booth (Boy George in TV’s Worried About The Boy) who cruises the internet for sex; and Tony Revolori (Grand Budapest Hotel) as a junior reporter exposing the story – perform a choreographed routine to George Michael’s Freedom ’90.
Ferran’s monologues as she blogs her exasperation as she is continually passed over for the school’s drama productions are especially funny. We’ve seen her at the National in Treasure Island and As You Like It but it is here in something more current and comedic that she really shines.
Revolori, too, has a lengthy journey his character takes and he handles this with particular sensitivity and his shyness during the previously mentioned choreographed set piece is made all the more funny by his co-stars’ enthusiasm for it, and nude bodystockings.
All credit to the popcorn-munching students around us as their rustling subsided before this 90-minute play without interval started.
There was a real-life debate after the matinee about the issues raised here which we didn’t stay for. Had we, we might’ve mentioned how distracting we find audience members eating through plays and how Speech and Debate is so much more fun than we were expecting.