The Kings Collective's production of Wasted, a play originally by Kate Tempest, is nothing short of a directorial masterpiece. Directed by Elsie Edgerton-Till, Wasted encapsulates the feelings of emotional isolation and eventual retribution of three young friends trying to brave the realities of their existence in South London. They attempt to gouge out a space for themselves in a pyramid city that believes they are, and perhaps always have been, socially redundant.
To start the evening off, I ran 1.3km from Sydenham Station to The Factory Theatre in Marrickville. I had one too many wines at after-work drinks and missed the connecting bus. With my phone out of charge, and already running late, I had no way of telling the friend, who I was meant to be meeting out the front at 6:30pm, that I was a light year behind schedule. I arrived covered in a thick layer of sweat to the awful realisation that she hadn’t arrived either – somebody pass me the Ventolin because these lungs don’t ‘do’ running.
Finally, 15 minutes late, we found one another and headed into the play. Luckily it hadn't started. We hovered at the back as a selection of prodigious poets performed their original works to an eager crowd, before the play commenced. It was a clever way to set up the beat and tone of the coming performance. Though if going to the theatre wasn’t already intimidating enough, imagine arriving halfway through a slam poetry session.
Out of our depth doesn’t begin to cover it.
Half-way through gulps of cider and idle chit-chat about our days, the show began. There was more rap-style poetry to kick things off. Sitting in the very front row, on cushions might I add, made us feel like we were a little ‘too involved’ with the happenings on the stage, but we soon realised that being this close made the experience infinitely better.
As the actors warmed into the show, finally stepping out under the spotlight, their accents and indeed their personas shifted from three Aussie actors putting on a spectacle, to three young South Londoners trying to figure their shit out on the anniversary of their friend Tony’s death.
David Harrison (Ted) created a character you both identified with and hated. Ted is the friend who has moved onto his holier-than-thou twenty-somethings, adamant that he’s beyond all this. Is this who I’ve become? Stuck in my 8-to-5 job, yearning for a time where I’d divulge my darkest secrets to strangers, with only indifference to look forward to?
I readily anticipated Harrison’s every word as he allowed his character to feel the full effects of what seemed to be his social renaissance, with acting skills so refined you could easily forget that mere moments ago, Harrison was just a regular guy speaking to you in his regular Aussie accent.
"They attempt to gouge out a space for themselves in a pyramid city that believes they are, and perhaps always have been, socially redundant."
He completely embodied the essence of Ted and was easily the most relatable character.
You don’t really want to relate to first-act Danny, exquisitely played by Jack Crumlin. We all know a Danny. That guy that wears sunglasses at night, the elastic of his pants riding just below his underwear line and you’ll never see him sans a saggy cig hanging out of his mouth. Ted and Danny are best mates, perhaps by default, and the play begins with them both toasting Tony’s death with a beer in the park. Danny starts to tell Ted that he’s turned over a new leaf, no more drugs, booze and emotionally screwing with Charlotte. He’s going to change, because he’s pretty sure he loves her.
As you can probably tell, Danny and Ted are polar opposites. You get the impression that Ted has heard this all before. He wants to believe that Danny is capable of change, and so do we, but you just know that what’s ahead will reveal that a leopard can’t change his spots.
Crumlin has effortlessly fashioned a guy you have to feel sorry for, because he just can’t seem to get it together.
Charlotte, expertly played by Eliza Scott, always seemed to have better expectations of what her life could be. Her heart was in the right place but she, along with the rest of them, certainly was not. Stuck in a dead-end town, in a dead-end job, we watched on as Charlotte slowly lost hope for herself: quitting her job, relapsing into a toxic relationship and cancelling her plans for a new life abroad. What did she do instead? She got wasted.
In fact, all three of them did. They got fucked up as a way to cope. As a way to feel. As a way to pass the time. Edgerton-Till’s creative decisions coaxed us into a familiar world, as if we were high as a fucking kite, sitting in a deserted concrete jungle out the back of a factory. I saw friends I felt I’d known forever losing a battle against the very thing that brought them together, until it became the only thing that brought them together.
For each of their drags you’re dragging alongside them. For every claw of a hand through their hair, you’re resisting the temptation to lunge into their space and ask, “Hey, got any pills?” They’re guerning the night away and frantically inhaling cigarettes in fear of the fast approach of morning.
"I saw friends I felt I’d known forever losing a battle against the very thing that brought them together, until it became the only thing that brought them together."
I have to keep reminding myself – this is just a play. This isn’t real.
I strongly suggest you sit on the ground before the stage if you can, even though my legs felt like that were wrapped in Gladwrap thanks to my restrictive corporate attire. I definitely had a serious case of numb-bum, but it was worth it to see every drop of sweat, every flicker of an eye, every scrunch of a fist against a pant leg. Nothing escaped our eyes, as the intricate craft of these three actors was revealed before our dimly-lit faces.
I would willingly put myself into near cardiac arrest all over again, just to feel the crushing adoration wash over me seeing this incredibly real and visceral portrayal of the youth of now.
With shows running up until the end of the week, I encourage you to go and get amongst it. You’ll regret not seeing this spectacular performance. Plus, what are you going to do instead, get Wasted?
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Madeleine Sharpe needs precisely thirty-seven alarms to wake up in the morning. Likes: coffee, and a cheeky boogie in a pair of sparkly heels. Give her a kilo of cheese and she'll love* you forever. *love not guaranteed.