site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Corn Exchange - The Straits

April 20th 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Change of life

The Straits, at The Corn Exchange, at Tuesday, April 20

Gregory Burke’s The Straits is a beautifully observed and moving ‘coming of age’ play. It is set in Gibraltar in the 1980s where Scottish playwright Burke was living as a young teenager with his father working in the naval dockyard.

The place is Rosia Bay, and Doink, Jock and Darren, children of British service personnel, are looking forward to a hot summer, watching pirate copies of Rambo, catching and selling octopus, with Darren’s older sister Tracey selling the bounty and fighting the local ‘spicks’, in order to defend their patch.

The lads are struggling with all the angst of adolescence as they prepare for the conflict with the locals during ‘anti-English day’.

Thousands of miles away the Falklands war has just started and Doink’s brother is serving on HMS Sheffield. The devastating news that the Sheffield has been sunk changes everything and the reality of war hits the youngsters, shattering their teenage innocence. Nothing will ever be the same again as their lives are changed forever.

James Marchant was totally convincing as the foul-mouthed aggressive bully, Doink, destined to a career in the marines, always egging on the others to fight the locals, forcing the pace and looking forward to ‘our lads giving the Argies a good bashing’. “War’s what we do innit? It’s what we do best. Don’t matter who we fight either – spicks or Germans or French or whatever. Reckon we’ll always be at war with someone and we always win”.

Jock (Freddy White) is the good guy, trying to reason and bring some common sense to the group as their world explodes around them.

Peter McNicholl perfectly captured the innocent newcomer, Darren, eager to please and fit in no matter what hardships he had to endure. Alice O’Connell gave a powerful performance as Darren’s tarty sister Tracy, manipulating the lads and eventually falling for Doink’s overtures.

John Tiffany’s taught direction brought out the very best from this young talented company in a high-energy, hugely enjoyable production which deserved a larger audience. Bravo Paines Plough.