Review: Another Country, as seen from above at the Trafalgar Studios
Review: The disappointing A Small Family Business at the National Theatre

Review: The urban poetry of Pests at the Royal Court

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Sinéad Matthews and Ellie Kendrick in Pests - taken for the Royal Exchange, Manchester production where Pests premiered before transferring to the Royal Court

As usual it falls to one of my theatre friends, this time @pcchan1981 to make the most pertinent comment about a play we've just seen. As we left the Royal Court's upstairs theatre he said of Pests: "This is what teenagers should be watching, not Other Desert Cities."

I didn't have to sit amongst a group of bored teenagers during the Old Vic's current play to which he was referring but I whole-heartedly agree. Bruntwood prize-winner Vivienne Franzmann's latest play is refreshingly contemporary written in a London street patois that makes it grimly poetic as well as giving it an urban currency.

Rolly (Ellie Kendrick) has just got out of prison, is pregnant and off drugs at present. She turns to sister Pink (Sinéad Matthews) for somewhere to live. Pink is a heroin addict funding her habit with petty crime and occasionally prostitution. Rolly has a job interview at a hotel which helps ex-cons into a new life. This could be a new start.

The two have a strong sisterly bond despite being separated for a time when they were in care. They have little else to identify with but it is a bond that ties them not only to each other but to a life they would like to leave. Failed by most adults they have been abused and abandoned by society and left to rot on its sidelines, surviving the only way they know how: get money, get drugs, get high. It leaves only a little time to daydream of a different life in between.

This is at times a shocking and devastatingly sad tale the language melding a heart-breaking childishness with bitter grown up experience. And, it is brilliantly performed. Sinéad Matthews is rarely still, like a cat on a hot tin roof, even when seated her knee jiggles and her hands tremble. It is almost as exhausting to watch as it is doubtless to perform.

Pests doesn't so much feel like an anti drugs message but a damning indictment of a society failing young people. But most importantly it is a play that feels fresh and alive and engaging and that is why, I think, Paul said teenagers should come to see it. A trip to see Pests would probably spark more discussion and interest in theatre than a dozen Other Desert Cities but it is unlikely to make it onto school theatre trip lists because the language is just a little ripe and would probably have parents up in arms.

It runs at the Royal Court upstairs until May 3 and all tickets on Monday's are £10 and available to buy on the day.


Technically this connection may not have happened yet but I like it so I'm going to use it anyway. Ellie Kendrick was in The Low Road which starred the lovely Johnny Flynn and he is due to play Roger Taylor in the Freddie Mercury biopic in which Mr W plays the lead.