Finborough Theatre, London – until 20 May 2017
Jordan Tannahill’s powerful play about cyber bullying is brought vividly to life in Michael Yale’s mesmerising production. For anyone who remembers their teenage years as being particularly painful because of being teased or worse bullied, Late Company is certainly a play that hits all of the emotions with regards the lasting impact of bullying, mental illness and teenage suicide.
But while on the surface the play deals with the aftermath of one family’s experience of teenage suicide, underneath it also looks at how lack of communication about sexuality and mental health had as much impact as the bullying at school. It is a story of redemption, guilt and grief.
Taking place across one evening, and a year after the death of their teenage son Joel, Debora and Michael sit down to dinner with their son’s bully and his parents. As tensions increase over the evening, it becomes clear that there is more to the story than Debora and Michael knew about – how much did they really know about their son?
Through his writing, Jordan Tannahill wastes no time in diving in and being confrontational about the various parental hypocrisies that exist when it comes to protecting their children as well as the increasing use of the internet to be vicious. It is wonderfully intense writing, that offers a variety of outlooks and keeps the audience thinking about who is right and who is wrong in these situations.
Michael Yale’s sharp and powerful production really brings across the rawness of the emotions that are experienced by both Michael and Debora as grieving parents and Bill, Tamara and Curtis on the accused side of the table. By setting it in what should be a cosy environment, Yale is able to create an almost claustrophobic atmosphere that heightens the tension even further.
Out of all the characters,Lucy Robinson as the grief stricken Debora who is out for ‘blood’ is increasingly the most aggressive and confrontational out of them all. When Debora confronts Curtis about all of the terrible things he said and did it is truly powerful moment and explosively performed by Robinson.
In contrast to this, Alex Lowe’s Bill is perhaps the most perceptive and honest when he suggests that perhaps Debora and Michael are as much to blame for not talking to their son more about his sexuality and mental health problems. Lowe gives a nicely balanced performance that is well grounded and sensitively handled.
David Leopold as Curtis might have less to say – but as the tension increases, his movements and expressions suggest just how much he is suffering and the evening is just reopening his own wounds as the bittersweet last scene proves. A quiet and understated performance that nevertheless makes a big impact.
It is a cleverly constructed piece of drama that reveals that there is more to bullying and its link to mental health that deserves to be explored more in theatre and society. Sharp, powerful and devastating piece of theatre.