A collaboration between Paines Plough and Kate Tempest was always going to generate hype. The former being a company known for fostering some of the best new talent, and the later being one of the great young British poets. Wasted has received great acclaim from critics and ordinary theatre goers alike. There tour has seen them take in the Brighton Pavilion Theatre and the Roundhouse, but it is here at York Theatre Royal’s TakeOver festival that their run comes to an end.
Wasted follows Charlotte, a teacher, Ted, an office worker and Danny, a failing musician through one day, the anniversary of their friends death. The event makes them question the direction and worth of their life choices. The narrative travels all over South London’s parks, bars, raves and cafes.
Before I go further let me say that it is painfully obvious that Kate Tempest is an amazing poet/rapper. The action on stage is broken into conventional dialogue and monologues delivered straight out to audience with the actors holding microphones, deliberately reminisce of the live poetry slams and rap battles from where Kate first burst. While the dialogue is of a decent quality, the miked up monologues to audiences are incredible. So concise and so provoking, they are what make Wasted. While it is performed by a very talented cast (Lizzy Watts, Ashley George, Cary Crankson) they were not as spectacular as other reviews and rumours led me to believe. I will not go into detail on the set or lighting design. They were well put together and functional not drawing away from the action on stage or the high quality of the poetical monologues. Indeed there were several short films that were very well produced and added to the potency of the piece.
I was apprehensive at first about the Takeovers choice of booking Wasted. I was concerned that Kate Tempest’s London centric perspective would act as a barrier between me and the work. I am not a pill popping London ‘youf’, whose childhood was littered with gang violence on the underground and drug abuse in warehouses in Peckham. The closest I came was doing poppers in a draffy barn. However, after the initial jolt, I found that the gulf between the context of the play and my own was overcome by Tempest’s ability to push past the immediate circumstances of the characters to give a more profound insight into the experience of being a struggling twenty something.
I spoke to people afterwards who were, as I expected to be, completely put off by context of the action, and felt that the plays message of ‘don’t waste your life,’ was made irrelevant for them. This valid criticism is not one which I share however. This isn’t to say that my initial concerns weren’t reinforced at times with lines like “I’m rushing my tits off,” and a reference to being bored with the same old tired drug raves leaving me feeling somewhat adrift.
I believe that the detachment felt by some was rather due more to a difference in age rather than a difference in culture and surroundings. If, like me, you are a twenty something, supposedly still young but looking for that ‘thing’ telling you that you are on the right track, then it will relate you to.
It was gratifying that the problems of the characters weren’t simply solved by getting your band signed, quitting your crappy job or taking an impromptu gap year, (which does look like a depressingly likely conclusion and one point). By concluding with a restoration of the status quo, Kate Tempest hits a powerful cord. With all the characters having come down of their high or buzz or whatever you call it, they’re big dreams of the night before vanish, and it’s back to the 9 to 5 and IKEA. They finish the play by saying, look, don’t just get pissed and talk about it, go and do it. It captures and bottles that cycle of working, hoping, going out and despairing that can make up your average week between the ages of 21 and 28.
In conclusion, it is refreshing to see a work that spoke about what it was like to be a twenty something that was current and relevant. No boring dating clichés, no Two Pint of Larger and Packet of Crisps ‘hilarity’, and no mention of the difficulties encountered being a young successful boy/girl in Marketing and how choosing a cocktail can be a bit of a mare. It captures something very real and very true. It shares your worries and concerns and makes you feel less alone. Rather than preaching at you, it seems Tempest and her characters have said “Yeah, I don’t know what to do either.”
Which is oddly comforting.