24, 23, 22, Underbelly Cowgate (Iron Belly), Review

24, 23, 22 - Chronic Insanity.
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Chronic Insanity.
Doug Deans (writer), Joe Strickland (director), Kathleen O'Dougherty (dramaturg).
Ruth Page (Fran), Joe Matty (Brendan), Joe Strickland (DJ).
Running time

“Here’s where it ends, I guess, and I’m just going to let it happen”.

This is a story that looks forwards, backwards and at the looked down upon, the distained and the disregarded.

Brendan is looking up at a sky that has been drained of colour, wondering why he seems to be lying in a pool of blood, his slowing pulse booming in his temples.  Fran is floating above a vivid dream landscape, but she also is about to be brought back down to earth.

Fran wakes next to her “goblin” date, stirred by the first tingles of a urinary tract infection and rushes to her dead-end job as a gym receptionist catering to school run mums who replace “bitch” with “dear” when talking to her.  The inappropriate touching she suffers on the bus does nothing for her issues of self-worth, but the growing high pitched noise in her head makes her think something is going to happen.  When it does it’s nothing good – this could be the “shittest day”.

Brendan has been struggling with relationships and his seeming invisibility.  Driven to rash and stupid action he is now looking back, feeling alive, on point in a pause, before returning to a frantic climb to a rooftop, his pursuer at his back, angry at every transgression.

As one timeline runs forward and the other jumps back the messy tangle of snap decisions, luck and mistakes will result in a clash.

This is well delivered with performances that are full of energy, changing pace from moments of comparative stillness to frantic chase sequences.  The strong, often lyrical writing has seen it longlisted for the Popcorn Writing Award championing new voices.  Some elements feel a little like they have been grafted on to add meaning and are not integral or remain obscure.

While the DJ is central stage the music isn’t, it provides a backbone as an accompaniment to the production, but this isn’t true gig theatre and having a focus on the DJ is a distraction.

An exciting piece with a structure which to some extent pushes the theatrical form, but it also falls between styles and just short of greatness.

Show Times: 3 to 27 (not 14) August 2023 at 2.10pm.

Tickets: £10.50 (£9.50) to £11.50 (£10.50).

Suitability: 14+ (Contains distressing or potentially triggering themes).