Kes Theatre Company, The Spaces On The Mile, Edinburgh

The streets of the East End are under threat from a dreadful new scourge… that most devious and all-encompassing of drugs… onions! And now the kids are hanging around outside a local takeaway and consuming them voraciously with little thought for the consequences. But what’s to be done about the problem? This sparky allegory by Jackie Kay, cleverly substitutes illegal drugs for something completely innocuous and manages to both expose the harm that drugs do and the over-reaction that society exhibits when dealing with them.

This is a school production, but it’s a damned good one – and at times the cramped performance space seems to literally strain at the seams to contain the sheer energy and enthusiasm of the ensemble cast. There were thirteen of them out there and as the piece incorporates quite a bit of physical theatre, they did well simply to avoid bumping repeatedly into each other; let alone moving with such evident control and precision. All the performances were exemplary and there were one or two potential stars of the future strutting their stuff in the midst of it.

If there’s a problem with Takeaway, it’s in the final section of the play, where Kay, having nailed her main subject with aplomb then segues into a riff on The Pied Piper of Hamelin – it’s almost as though she realised she needed to add an extra twenty minutes running time and looked around for a suitable fairy tale to tack on the end. Don’t get me wrong, it’s as nicely written as what’s gone before but doesn’t seem to sit comfortably with the rest of the script. But that’s hardly Kes Theatre’s fault. These gutsy young actors, from years 11 to 13 and based in Bath, have come to the Edinburgh Festival to compete with the professionals and have given a really good account of themselves. They should feel justifiably proud.

3. 6 stars

Philip Caveney 


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