Winter Of Our Discotechque, RADA Studio Theatre - Review

Tess Humphrey is not your typical playwright. Writing her first play at the age of 15, Humphrey grew up with autism and her school life was anything but smooth. After an unsuccessful attempt on her own life, time in seclusion gave her time and space to channel her anger and thoughts into a creative outlet, leading to the writing of several social satires, including Winter Of Our Discotheque...

Discontentment with the behaviour of the Establishment has been a recurring theme in theatre in recent years, a marked difference from theatre pre-Second World War with the likes of Noel Coward and Evelyn Waugh etc. In 2010, Laura Wade's Posh portrayed a fictionalised version of the infamous Bullingdon Club at Eton, a world where women are absent and attitudes towards them are unenlightened to say the least. The play's scrutiny of the affluent, the future bankers and the aristocracy foreshadowed future events, as 2011-12 saw the inception of the Occupy London movement camping outside St Paul's Cathedral, in spitting distance of the London Stock Exchange. Which leads us back to Winter Of Our Discotheque...

Most of the play takes place at the Hastings – a fictitious rival public school to Eton – focusing is on three individuals: Agatha a.k.a. Mama (Lily Cooper), Alex (Charlie Field), and new arrival Laurie (George Grey).  As head girl, Mama has a lot of influence and popularity within the school, while Alex has many contacts and connections for his many 'habits'. By contrast Laurie is a fish out of water, his situation exacerbated by the fact that he has several unorthodox 'habits' of his own. As a member of 'one of the [aristocratic] families' his decision to study law is viewed as questionable, a career that is the reserve of the 'aspiring (middle) classes than of the independently wealthy noblesse oblige.

However that is the least of his 'irksome qualities'. As close as Alex and Mama are to Laurie, their patience with him is tested to the limit as his ostricising outbursts on the surface have 'no rhyme or reason' for occurring. While Alex is wrapped  up in his own problems – including the death of a relative who was working in the City – it is Mama's persistence and empathy that breaks through Laurie's barriers when he unburdens his terrible secret.

It could be argued that there is something of Humphrey in both Laurie and Mama, understanding the emotional and psychological reasoning behind Laurie’s depression and the limits of 'self-help' as well as being able to look at things objectively – the clarity that is born of experience, maturity and hindsight.

One of the many strengths of the play is how fresh and original it feels, the balance of the black humour with the distinct voice of the author. The trio of actors are perfectly cast, playing their respective roles with aplomb.

The play certainly deserves an extended stretch beyond its run at RADA.

© Michael Davis 2016

Winter Of Our Discotheque ran at RADA Studios from 9th to 14th June 2016.


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