As We Face The Sun at the Bush Theatre is part coming-of-age drama, part exploration of the impact of grief on a group of school friends. The story centres on a group of 14/15-year-old classmates at a West London school after the death of one of their friends and how that shapes them and their friendships over the next 10 years.
Performed by the Bush's 18-25 Young Company, we first meet them loud, energetic and excited for a school trip. There is joking and joshing with individual personalities coming through from the quiet to the loudest and most confident.
However, this energy gets overshadowed as each deals with loss in their own way and starts to grow into adulthood and life after school. In one poignant scene when they forget and let loose, their fun is pulled up sharp when the mother of their dead friend is spotted.
The group's annual get-together in memory of their friend's birthday, held at the same venue with the same food, playlist and dance routine, starts to look more like nostalgia than a memorial.
Told as recollections, the cast works well as a group to deliver sharply timed lines - this isn't a play of many pregnant pauses - while still allowing individual characters to shine.
Sometimes the music and general bustle on the stage make the dialogue difficult to hear, and the large cast of characters means some scenes linger a little longer than necessary as a few too many characters are given voice.
Where As We Face The Sun works best is when it captures the bittersweet, that line between excitement, fun and having your whole life in front of you (whatever that means, as the teens say) and the dark weight of having experienced loss - and a young loss - at such a formative age.
I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️ and half stars.
As We Face The Sun, Bush Theatre
Written by Kit Withington
Directed by Katie Greenall & Lynette Linton
Running time: 90 minutes with no interval
Booking until 26 August for more information and tickets, visit Bush Theatre's website.
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