Follow, the latest work by the Time Out Critic’s Choice award winning playwright Dameon Garnett, charts a short period in the lives of two sixteen-year old friends, Reece and Blake, and Blake’s dad Gary.
Set in the living room of Gary’s house in Speke, Liverpool, the play is about fatherhood and patriarchal responsibility; with each of the three ‘men’ struggling with their individual father and son issues.
Blake, played by Adam Redmore, is trying to come to terms with the fact that he has recently become a teenage father to a son, Nathan. At the same time he is railing against the authority of his own dad as he is forced to grow up.
On the other side of this struggle is the middle-aged father, Gary, played by Paul Regan, who is attempting to teach his son to be a man and a father, What you want, Blake, doesn’t come into it-anymore; I know that’s difficult for you to understand, but that’s the situation you got yourself into. Live with it. Gary has also raised Blake on his own following the death of his wife.
Blake’s best friend Reece, played by Oliver Gilbert, is also contending with father and son issues, he’s recently moved back to Liverpool from Portsmouth where he has been in trouble with the police. Although seemingly sharp he has dropped out of school and his only ambition is to work on a Sydney building site.
Like Blake he’s the son of a one-parent family, but unlike his friend he’s been brought up by his mother. His dad “might as well be up the fuckin’ Andes for all (he) know(s)”.
Reece desperately wants to find his father and it emerges that moving back to Liverpool, and his latest scheme to move to Sydney, are less about his love of the sea and more about following his father who was in the Navy.
All three characters must deal with the decisions they’ve made and their fathers before them, however painful and uncomfortable. Reece gets into trouble after a money raising scheme designed to get the boys to Sydney, Blake must face the facts that his raving days are over when the mother of his baby refuses to take a role in the child’s life, and Gary has to put his relationship on ice to deal with Blake and the baby Nathan.
Although the actors deliver good performances, it feels flat in places and the production fails to ignite. The second half picks up the plot pace a little, with the local drug lord terrorising Reece and Blake finally warming to fatherhood, but overall it fails to pack a punch.
In these times of Fathers For Justice and sky-rocketing teenage pregnancies I couldn’t help but feel that promising Garnett and experienced director Ken Alexander have somehow missed an opportunity for something more powerful or culturally significant than Follow delivers.