Review: Begin/End

Begin/End is the Halfmoon Theatre’s new play for teenagers and young adults written by David Lane. Set in the distilled thoughts and memories of Lili, a young teen girl making her way through school and swimming classes like every normal teenager, until she spots Yaz, another young teen girl on her estate… and things aren’t quite the same again.

David Lane’s play is a fast, often head spinning experience. The dialogue is snappy and poetic, creating an ever climaxing narrative. The text is relentlessly spoken between Lili and Yaz, bouncing back and forth between them, twisting imagery together until you’re completely caught in a web of tangled thoughts and emotions.

Of course, a look back at any teenage years and the dialogue reflects this confusing time, jumping from moment to moment, never landing for pause or reflection. Whilst this is engaging (demonstrated by the school group also watching in hushed silence) it does leave your head numb after 25 minutes of action packed dialogue, fearing the audience might be drowning with Lili in the swimming pool of memories before there is a pause in the text.

What is clear though is the amount of time and energy that has been taken in perfecting Lanes dialogue. 3 years in development, consulting young people in the use of words and dialogue clearly shows. Begin/End isn’t trying to be an adults idea of how teenagers communicate, it is how they talk. From slang, and swearing, the dialogue is written to perfection.

Naturally the dialogue wouldn’t be the same without the outstanding acting of Amy Costello (Lili) and Rachel McKenzie (Yaz) whose energy and portrayal of teenagers is perfection. They allow younger audiences to easily relate to these teenage figures, by expressing the dilemmas that amount during these difficult years in effective manners. Both Costello and McKenzie cope admirably with the demands of Lanes dialogue and even go as far to seem at ease with it.

McKenzie brings about a certain ‘street’-like quality to her acting, whilst Costello juggles the frantic rambling text with great enthusiasm, that creates deeper meaning to the words and themes.

Relationships are fragile things to grasp and hold onto. Lili’s and Yaz’s is your typical teenager friendship from girls who seem drawn to each other from a force of nature. Lili’s feelings though are more than just friendship, they delve deeper than this, a longing, a desire, a love ever so rich. For Lili is gay, and whilst she might not fully realise it, for she has not acted upon it, the emotions and feelings she feels for Yaz can not be disregarded. Whilst the LGBT issues is an area explored in Begin/End, the depth of this is only skin deep which lets the play down slightly.

The play can easily be portrayed that being gay is something that can be seen as a negative thing, and can bring about troubles and issues. Whilst of course this is true (troubles and issues that is), I’m sure this message is not quite what Lane intended. However as this is a piece for young adults the production includes post show discussions, resource packs and activities around these issues that can be addressed in schools and youth groups. The Halfmoon Theatre encourage the use of these services as a tool to engage with these often difficult topics.

Begin/End is a remarkable piece of young peoples theatre, from one of Londons best theatres dedicated to younger generations. It is great to see a production so engaging to a younger audience, and judging from the response of the school group I watched the play with, it truly relates to this often unheard voice and age.

Whilst the subject of abuse and sexuality is slightly muted the overwhelming themes of loving someone you can’t have resounds in every teenager. If you’re gay or straight the message is clear. We love, we lose, but we keep going.

Begin/End is now on tour around the UK, check out the Halfmoon Theatre’s website to see where you can catch it next.

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