“Did you enjoy that?” director Matt Whitelock asked as I left the Oakwood Centre, having just watched the opening night of Hood. “Well…” I said, hesitating, “enjoy is not the word.”
There are many superlatives that need to be attached to Berzerk Productions’ latest show. The talented young cast once again excel and show acting talent beyond their years: Berzerk sets the bar high and raises it every time.
But Hood is also an unsettling, dark and challenging hour of theatre, not just for the the audience but for the cast too, focusing on the after effects of a family ripped apart when their mother leaves for a bacon-licking vegetarian.
Poverty, fear and loathing are all explored, a heady cocktail of teenage angst and love exploding with passion across the stage thanks to a stellar cast all at the top of their game.
For the show, Berzerk has once again teamed up with the National Theatre Connections project to present the new 60-minute play, written specially for the project by Katherine Chandler.
The fallout from Mum leaving sees a Dad glued to his chair (performed by puppeteers) while the siblings ponder what they can make to eat from a budget of 51p.
As if that wasn’t challenging enough for the young cast, who had just eight weeks to pull this together, the play features monologues for all the main characters, all to be delivered under the harsh glare of a spotlight and in an accent. The entire cast does so with aplomb, never dropping a line, never hesitating, always conveying their raw emotions, proving the strength of Berzerk’s tuition.
There is also some puppetry – something that even adult performers would struggle with. Co-ordinated movements help propel the puppets along, creating believable movements.
Niamh Connolly-Capel heads the cast as young Hood, and has the most arduous role of all.
On stage for the vast majority of the play, she has to deliver asides to the audience – something akin to a cross between Little Mo in EastEnders and Bridget Jones and her diary.
Her accent never slips, her facial expressions speak volumes and her confidence shines through, creating a thoroughly believable character that you’d have to have a heart of solid granite not to sympathise with.
Just as talented are the rest of the cast, who use the whole of the Oakwood Theatre to help sell the show.
It’s unfair to single out any single performance as they are all superb.
The sets are very simple with the stage divided into four areas: cardboard boxes are pressed into service for everything from a piece of toast to a sideboard. Elsewhere a supermarket wheelie bin sits next to a greengrocer’s turf and the Estate Kids use nothing but torches and hoods to create an intimidating and heady atmosphere.
There is nothing to criticise about this play: once again, Berzerk delivers a challenging production with a young cast who have wisdom beyond their years. Lighting, sound and direction all work with the cast to create another must see.
So did I enjoy it? Yes, yes I did.
While the play’s subject matter is uncomfortable territory, it is effectively explored and the cast tease out the emotion and despair so convincingly.
Watching these teenagers deliver is a highly enjoyable experience: this Hood is good.
Hood is performed at the Oakwood Centre in Woodley until Friday, March 6. Friday’s perofrmance is in aid of Home Start. For tickets call 07580 891904 or log on to its website.