Tuesday, 8 December 2015

REVIEW - Barbarians, Young Vic


THREE lads growing up in Lewisham in the 1970s. They leave school and have little in the way of prospects or ambition and not much to do except steal cars. Bored and restless they swagger about London looking for something to do.
Directed by Liz Stevenson and currently being staged at the Young Vic, Barbarians is a blistering take on the lives of these three young men over the course of three consecutive summers. And given its themes it seems to be as relevant now as it was when it was written 40 years ago.
The production is housed in the Waterloo theatre's Maria stage which given its small size, adds to the feelings of claustrophobia and tension that the three lads, Jan, Paul and Louis feel as they try and navigate their way through life.
They are faced with the misery of unemployment, rejection, racism, being left on the scrapheap and feel trapped not just in Lewisham but in life in general.
Dressed in Doc Martins, jeans, T shirts and with shaved heads, the three pace almost menacingly around the space which includes walkways behind the two back rows of the audience who sit either side of the main stage.
Indeed as you walk in you can feel the tension in the air as they creep around, full of anger and resentment, desperate for a sense of belonging and purpose in life.
Throughout the piece we see how their lives change and how they react to that change and each other.
Superbly directed by Stevenson, it is a highly charged production with terrific performances by Fisayo Akinade as Louis, the expert in refrigeration, Alex Austin as the quieter Jan and Brian Vernel as the more volatile Paul - who is constantly simmering with anger and resentment and someone who looks as though he's about to boil over. When he does it is with devastating consequences.
Together they bring out the dark humour and wonderfully poignant moments of the piece which should serve as a warning that we abandon young people at our peril.

Barbarians is at the Young Vic, The Cut until December 19. Visit www.youngvic.org or call the box office on 0207 922 2922 for full listings.  

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