Angry Young Man @ Trafalgar Studios 2, London

cast list
Hywel John
Gary Shelford
Hugh Skinner
Alex Waldmann

written and directed by
Ben Woolf
Ben Woolf’s Angry Young Man is a superb yarn, a shaggy dog story of the best kind. It takes you on a somewhat frantic drive and drops you off at the end, not particularly wiser, but warmed by the feeling of having laughed loudly and often over the past hour.

The hero of the piece is Yuri, a struck-off Russian surgeon. London-bound and looking for work, he arrives in the city with 4.20 in his pocket and a grasp of English that is shaky in the extreme. After taking refuge in a park he encounters posh Patrick, who whisks the young ‘stray’ back to his house in Notting Hill. The incident-packed plot that follows involves bizarre socialist cults and sinister skin heads.

The story is however eclipsed by the method of its telling. There are four actors, all smartly besuited, who bat the character of Yuri between them. This allows Yuri, our articulate narrator, to be contrasted with the hesitant and monosyllabic foreigner that he appears as to the other characters.

The actors also hop nimbly between all the secondary characters, including a sherry drinking left wing eccentric, an ancient Irish old lady and even a Labrador, so that the switches are never jarring, the pacing remarkably fluid.

Part of this is down to practice. This piece, from theatre company MahWaff, has been staged to acclaim in numerous fringe venues over the last couple of years, but credit must go to the four-man cast, who milk each detail from Woolf’s tightly-written script for its full comic potential. The cast are so much a unit that it’s difficult to single out individual performances. However I was taken with both Alex Waldmann’s playing of Patrick’s coquettish girlfriend Alison and Gary Shelford’s puff-chested Patrick. Hugh Skinner was also very entertaining, though saddled with all the most minor parts, including the aforementioned tongue-lolling Lab.

Staged on a bare black set, with just four mismatched chairs as props, Angry Young Man is a nice, if slight, idea, wonderfully executed. From a creative perspective it’s a genuinely exciting piece, and it even contains a nugget of something serious about how this country treats its immigrants, though this is rather thrown away for comic purposes.

Though it’s been around for a bit, Angry Young Man still felt funny and fresh. It was meant to be staged at the smaller of the Trafalgar Studios in a double bill with another work by Ben Woolf, The Explorer, but this has been cancelled due to illness. This is a shame, as on the back of this show I was very keen to see more work by this company, however Angry Young Man is definitely worth seeing on its own terms.

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