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REVIEW: The power of three high school misfits in Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2

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Patsy Ferran, Douglas Booth and Tony Revolori. Photo Simon Annand

Solomon (Tony Revolori) is an aspiring journalist and wants an article published, Diwata (Patsy Ferran) is an aspiring actress and wants a part in the school play and Howie (Douglas Booth) wants to flirt on gay chat sites. All outsiders with their own agendas, they are united by a sex scandal at their school and a musical version of The Crucible, with a time-travelling Abraham Lincoln, might just be the answer to getting what they want.

Stephen Karam's play's is laced with wit and black humour with a serious sprinkling of silly fun but there is far more to it below the laughs.  It's a story about teenagers on the cusp of becoming adults struggling to realise their ambitions in a world where social media is just starting to take off. They want to talk about the stuff that matters such as freedom of expression and gay rights and have sex education classes without the genitals being referred to as the 'bathing suit area'.  They are young people on a voyage of social and sexual discovery, often learning the hard way the consequences of their actions.

Karam's play under the direction of Tom Attenborough takes a gentle approach to some difficult subjects without lessening their impact and seriousness. Speech and Drama refreshingly avoids the overt nastiness that teenage dramas seem always to display these days. All three of the teens have a certain amount of precociousness and bluster but they also have their sensitive sides which are subtly revealed without milking the drama.

Douglas Booth has inevitably drawn in the younger audiences, which is always good to see, however Howie feels like the slightly lighter of the three parts. Tony Revolori, whom I loved in the film the Grand Budapest Hotel, is a wonderfully earnest Solomon - razor-sharp clever in certain areas but clueless - and oblivious - in others. However, it is Patsy Ferran who steels the show as the quirky and determined Diwata - I'd certainly tune in to her audio podcasts.

Speech and Drama is 90 minutes of wonderful, warm, clever and moving fun and I'm giving it five stars. It's at the Trafalgar Studios 2 until April 1.

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