Love Bites/Occupy Meadows
JOYCE MCMILLAN on LOVE BITES/OCCUPY MEADOWS at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 19.6.12
3 stars ***
IF YOU WANT to glimpse a model of youth theatre that really works – not only in passing on theatrical skills, but in helping young people deal with their lives – then you could do much worse than catch up with the Edinburgh-based group Strangetown, famous for working with new plays by young playwrights who know the group well.
So in this current double bill, Strangetown’s 15-18 group perform two new plays set in Edinburgh on a midsummer night. Sam Siggs’s Love Bites – beautifully choreographed by director Ruth Hollyman – is a gorgeously assured 65-minute variation on the theme of love and how human beings mess it up, filtered through a conversation on a park bench between a stray Edinburgh teenger (male) and a gorgeous young teenage Cupid (female), who is about to snap her bow and throw away her wings, so futile are her efforts to bring romance to Edinburgh’s gormless youth. There’s plenty of comedy here, some tremendously confident acting, and the occasional real touch of pathos.
Alan Gordon’s Occupy Meadows, by contrast, is a much bigger play that almost collapses under the weight of its own ambition, which involves creating 24 distinct teenage characters over 80 minutes, and weaving their stories into a fragmented, interlinked tragedy played out over one long evening on the Meadows. The play is sometimes difficult to take in its portrayal of a lost, cynical and negative younger generation interested only in getting drunk or drugged-up; it’s also written almost entirely in an agonising teenage text-speak, funny only for the first ten minutes. In the end, though – even while the pace often sags – it’s hard not to be impressed by the boldness of the play, its sense of tragedy, and its movingly political conclusion; as the kids gather their moral resources, and rouse themselves to protest at last.