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115

Deadline” is written by Olivia Knowles and Pierce Reid, and both are performing this play at Greenside on Infirmary Street. From the start, “Deadline” has to fight very hard to be likeable. For one thing, the play will be all excessively familiar for many graduates in their twenties and, increasingly, their thirties. We are meant to visit the theatre to escape our everyday lives, not to reencounter them depicted with the force and vividness of a caricature. “Deadline” is a play about two Journalism Studies graduates who are struggling to find employment, in their case in London.

Even worse, this play ostensibly plunges into that least respectable of all theatrical genres, the lowest hanging of fruit for every trainee writer: the student flatshare observational drama/comedy. I have seen the same play more times than I have had Wetherspoons lunches, and I have experienced it soggy, lukewarm, plain, and mediocre.

“Deadline,” to my growing relief, makes much out of these discouraging beginnings. The observational humour which usually swathes the first two thirds of this kind of play (Sample joke: “Where’s the bin?” “Everywhere.”) is largely absent. Or rather, there is as little comedy as this play can get away with. “Deadline” might be conventionally observational, but the convention has been here driven to unexpectedly Gothic extremes. That world-famous student flat is now tottering histrionically like the House of Usher.

Stuart, who is still buzzing with undergraduate energy and brilliance, cannot get a foothold in the adult world. He has spent the years since his graduation living in a crack den. His unreliable flatmate, David, has gone missing; his former flatmate, Charlotte, revisits the old flat to help, but it becomes ever more obvious that she has betrayed him. This play represents the end of his tether.

As a performer, Reid is a formidable weapon, and “Deadline” doesn’t hold back when utilising him. Stuart’s bratty, incandescent voice is the engine of the whole play; his ranting is so lyrical that it is frequently rhapsodic. Knowles can match his powers, ensuring that the play never fatally relaxes. A scene in which the two end up feverishly snorting cocaine and sobbing must look ridiculous on paper, but on stage the actors hit the target, bullseye.

The characters are never sympathetic though. However bad it gets, the reasons for their suffering always resemble excuses. You suspect that Stuart could simply walk out of this story and find a new life for himself and brush all of his problems off his fingers like loose powder. So “Deadline” is a faulty bildungsroman in which the coming of age has been again deferred.

PS: When reviewing stories like this one, in which everything seems so personal, it is naturally difficult to remain objective. But I think that I can be allowed a little wobble on the question of the beer. Charlotte particularly enjoys Tyskie beer, which I had also drunk a lot of after graduating, and she laughs that “it makes me feel cool.” When choosing my Bolshevik-style nom de guerre, I had, of course, settled on the name of the town where Tyskie is brewed.

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