Donmar Warehouse, London – until 1 February 2020
Teenage Dick is one of those play titles you have to be careful mentioning or googling, a bit like Cock at the Royal Court – but it is wholly appropriate for Mike Lew’s play.
The Dick of the title is Roseland high-school student Richard Gloucester (Daniel Monks) who is based loosely on Shakespeare’s machiavellian King.
Hemiplegic Richard is fed-up of being bullied, ostracised or worse, ignored, so with the elections for senior year president looming, he decides he will scheme his way to the top enacting revenge along the way.
However, matters become complicated by Anne Margaret (Siena Kelly) who starts to be more than a pawn in his game. Richard has to decide what he values and what is worth sacrificing.
Lew’s play is a black comedy full of witty one-liners and verbal battles of scathing put-downs. Shakespeare’s English is referenced occasionally, often delivered with a mix of boastfulness and sarcasm. There are also plenty of references to popular culture – I particularly enjoyed a Horcrux reference in relation to Richard.
While the Bard’s villain is rarely played with any redeeming personality traits, Lew writes teenage Richard in a way that allows for a degree of empathy. In fact, the plot twists and turns are most powerful in how the character challenges audiences sympathies.
Monk beautifully draws out Richard’s inner struggle and hurt, while equally displaying superb villainous alacrity and brilliant comic timing.
Be warned, there are moments when you may wince or gasp at what is being said, the students at Roseland High School don’t so much side-step around the idea of inclusivity as trample over it oblivious.
But, throw in one of the best dance sequences I’ve seen on stage and Teenage Dick is a really fun and clever dark comedy. I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
It is 1 hour and 50 minutes without an interval and is at the Donmar Warehouse until 1 February.