Bush Theatre, London – until 13 November 2017
“Dive, dive, dive right in / Dive, dive, dive, dive, dive right in…”
On the one hand, I think I’d like to see Tom Wells really surprise us with something completely different. But on the other, he does what he does so bloody well that I kinda never want him to stop. Drip sees him playing with form, as it is a one-man musical but thematically, we’re once again in the world he has explored so affectingly in plays such as Me As A Penguin, The Kitchen Sink and Jumpers for Goalposts.
Our protagonist is Liam, a 15-year-old from South Shields who has moved to Hull cos his mum is seeing a guy named Barry who lives there. Making fast friends with Caz, the ‘other queer student’ at school, he throws himself into helping her with the annual project prize presentation that she is so desperate to win. Only thing is, she’s planning Hull’s first synchronised swimming team and Liam can’t swim…
Drip is presented as a musical being performed by Liam as part of a school assembly, a device which works well in stringing together short scenes that take us through his past year since moving to Hull. And these vignettes mean that there’s mahoosive room for Wells to fill his book and lyrics with the kind of wry observational humour that he does so well, particularly as it relates to the awkwardness of being an adolescent gay kid.
Working out if a crush on trainee lifeguard Josh might turn into anything, deciding whether synchronised swimming is too – well – camp even for them, figuring out how friendships can be mended even after the biggest of strains, trying to make Spiderman proud of you… At just an hour long, Drip is short and incredibly sweet, delivered perfectly by Andrew Finnigan with his guitar, full of hesitations and self-doubt that is perfectly pitched.
Matthew Robins’ songwriting is necessarily simplistic – these are songs that Liam has written in his bedroom after all – and an additional reason for that becomes apparent later on, but there’s a heartfelt tenderness to them that works. And Jane Fallowfield’s direction encourages a playful naturalism that is impossible to resist, especially in the gentle audience participation that raises a chuckle throughout. Created as a Script Club production in partnership with Boundless Theatre, Drip is another feather in the cap for Wells & co and is definitely one to look out for if and when it returns (it must return right?!).