Sixteen Up @ Unicorn Theatre, London

cast list
Lloyd Thomas, Elizabeth Cadwallader

directed by
Iqbal Khan
Sex: an interesting topic by anyone’s standards.

So when Box Clever Theatre Company came up with the idea of Sixteen Up (“a witty and unique take on the complexities and confusions of first love [from] two 16-year olds who share their first sexual encounter), I expected an enjoyable and heartfelt take on a situation that is increasingly affecting more and more teenagers, written in a way young people could relate to. This wasn’t quite how it turned out.

The play begins shortly after Adam (Lloyd Thomas) and Evie (Elizabeth Cadwallader) have had sex in Adam’s bedroom
Not quite sure of what to do next or how to deal with the emotions that the encounter has elicited, Evie goes home without the pair really talking about what has just happened. The play then explores the feelings of both teenagers as they question whether what they are experiencing is love.

The second half revisits the same characters one year later, when both have moved on and found new partners who seem to suit them better. At Evie’s 17th birthday party, Adam and Evie are reunited – with their new partners in tow – and, in an attempt to outdo the other, the original couple fall back into their usual pattern of bickering. A tangle of hidden feelings are revealed and the pair soon realise that they cannot be parted.

The play is told in a series of monologues, with only a few scenes in which the characters actually talk to one another; a technique that soon becomes boring. The first monologue is Adam’s and while it starts well, convincing as a portrait of a confused teenager, it soon becomes tedious and repetitive. Evie’s monologue is far more amusing, as Cadwallader flits between Evie’s two friends – a fast talking Liverpudlian and a teeth-kissing south Londoner – but sadly, this isn’t enough to counter the feelings of indifference that have begun to creep in.

Michael Wicherek’s play is, at times, quite funny but the majority of the humour errs on the lazy side and the laughs are few and far between.

Director Iqbal Khan uses colourful projections, loud music and an onstage musician in attempt to make the production appeal to a younger audience and, for the most part, this approach is really successful. The funniest scene in the play is the party, where the dancing of Evie and her friends, as they try to get Adam’s attention, and the use of music, milk maximum humour from the set-up.

Thomas and Cadwallader work well together but their onstage chemistry is undermined by a play that is just not dramatic enough and, at times, rather confusing. Granted, the play is intended to appeal to teenagers, but the charm of good theatre for young people is that its strengths can be appreciated by young people and adults alike. With Sixteen Up that is just not the case.

Sixteen Up is at the Unicorn Theatre until 22 November and touring until 4 December 2008.

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