Theatre Review: Speech and Debate

Taking on the issues surrounding high school life with dark comedy and dance numbers, went to see how The Drama Barn took on this modern cult comedy

Rebecca McGreevy and Bryn Richards in Speech and Debate. Photo Credit: Greg Tiani

The power and danger of social-media is an ever-present subject in this day and age, what with it being so easily accessible to everyone. But what happens when it is difficult for you to openly speak about the issues that you or others are facing on the World Wide Web? Speech and Debate takes a look at this issue, plus open speech in general, and how it can affect different kinds of people.

With a mysterious opening displaying the conversation of two anonymous kids on a chat site, this leaves the play on a cliff-hanger within the first two minutes, providing a mini prologue, the meaning of which gradually surfaces throughout the course of the show.

The standout element of this show is the striking differences in personalities between the three main characters, all executed in an outstanding, clear-cut way.

The first part of the show focuses on the ever-present topics that are sometimes classed as ‘controversial’, such as abortion, religion, and homosexuality, and how, in conservative communities, these are not openly addressed, and kids must resort to ‘googling it’. In a world of patronising adults who insist on using the term ‘bathing suit areas’, it is unsurprising that the students are unable to confidently speak out about the issues affecting them. As the story unfolds, the suggestion that one of the high school teachers has been involved in a sex scandal leads the three main characters to unite and resurrect a dying school club to tackle the issue and make their voices heard in a very unusual way.

The standout element of this show is the striking differences in personalities between the three main characters, all executed in an outstanding, clear-cut way. Rebecca McGreevy as Diwata presents a stunning performance, playing an extremely dramatic girl whose passion for drama and desperation for the limelight can sometimes seem a little excessive, however there is not an element of overacting, she carefully draws the line between this and expressing the character in it’s most genuine form. Diwata’s characteristics perfectly clash with those of Solomon, as played by Euan Brook. Solomon has rather a nervous disposition, expertly displayed by his completely believable use of body language, mannerisms, and often repeating that he is ‘not a performer’.

Euan Brook in Speech and Debate. Photo Credit: Greg Tiani

Also desperate to be known and respected for his passion, journalism, Solomon is an advocate for open speech about controversial topics (over which he is repeatedly shut down by his teacher, played by Freya Dawes), while struggling to come to terms with his own identity. Between these two is Howie, excellently portrayed by Bryn Richards. Howie also comes across as someone who is still working out who he is and how to present himself to the world, but he is also irritated by the fact that his two friends, particularly Solomon, are refusing to be as open about their identities as he is.

Although all the characters have very different personalities, it becomes clear very early on that, deep down, they are all insecure, as they are all still trying to work out who they are and how to let their true selves shine through. As the show goes on, more topics such as teenage pregnancy are introduced to add to the unspoken list, to eventually introduce the idea that, if young people bottle up their feelings and problems, they can all suddenly be released in an emotional explosion.

The message of this show is a powerful one: that young people should be supported and allowed to be open about their feelings and issues, and this is portrayed in an extremely effective way by the direction and stagecraft; outstanding work by the production team. This is a show not to be missed.


8/10

Speech and Debate continues in The Drama Barn every night at 7:30pm until Sunday. For more information, please visit their website.

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