30 March 2017, The Tablet

Seventeen going on seventy

Seventeen, Lyric Hammersmith, London


Finding, in theatre listings, one play about cross-generational relationships and another about the last day of school, you might think that such subject matter has already been over-done. So the question raised by two new productions is: to what extent can innovative staging reinvigorate familiar material?

In Seventeen, a UK premiere for Australian playwright Matthew Whittet, the trick is that school leavers, meeting up for beers in a park, are played by actors closer to 70 than 17. A similar device was used in Dennis Potter’s play Blue Remembered Hills, dramatising the idea (familiar to parents, teachers and psychoanalysts) that children carry the outline of the adult they will become: the heartbreakers and heartbroken in the classroom often destined to take the same roles later in the boardroom and bedroom.

Potter’s play was set in the past, which avoids a problem immediately thrown up by Whittet’s contemporary setting.

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