Review: Lit by Sophie Ellerby. Nottingham Playhouse. On Demand

Lit 
On Demand Stream, Nottingham Playhouse 
18th January 2022 

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought numerous challenges to theatres and production companies, forcing creatives to come up with new ways of generating revenue and getting their content out to audiences.  One such method was that of ‘On Demand’ stream rentals, whereby audiences can pay to watch a production online from the comfort of their own homes. 

 
The process for online streaming is very easy.  Simply book a ticket online as normal, and then click through to the dedicated viewing website to watch the show. This works on any mobile device, laptops and PCs, or through a smart TV. Although no experience is quite like being in the same room as the production itself, it’s still an efficient and effective workaround, and it has its perks (no travel costs, no latecomers, and no rustling sweets).  You can even rewatch the recording as many times as you like for 5 days after your purchase, so it’s great value for money. 

The Nottingham Playhouse are offering this option for their production of ‘Lit’, which is available now and streaming until the end of May.  Written by Sophie Ellerby, the play tells the story of tearaway teen Bex (Eve Austin) who has been taken into adoptive care by Sylvia (Maxine Finch).  Running on hormones and seeking validation in all the wrong places, Bex forms an unlikely friendship with the shy and timid Ruth (Tiger Cohen-Towell), who prefers to spend her days with Harry Potter.  Between lashing out at Sylvia, mocking Ruth for her straight-laced ways, and keeping boyfriend Dillon (Josh Barrow) interested the only way she knows how, Bex is a volatile mix of resentment, insecurity, anger and sexual maturity that she isn’t ready for, all of which sees her on a very uneasy path through adolescence, and she takes the audience on her journey as her timebomb ticks down.

 

Ellerby’s frank and cutting script combine brilliantly with Stef O’Driscoll’s stark and vivid direction to create something really memorable here.  Often darkly funny, and at times chillingly raw, it’s a study of a teenage girl who has never belonged and who desperately wants to, but equally is her own worst enemy and drives people away.  Bex is initially quite unlikeable, abrasive and pushy with a mouth on her to talk your ear off, but Austin pays her brilliantly, being totally in-your-face but conveying Bex’s underlying naivety and insecurities with subtle skill.  Predatory one minute, childlike the next, it’s a truly layered portrayal, at times blistering in its ferocity, and Austin owns every second of it.  Cohen-Towell as Ruth makes a great contrast to Bex, although she is also great fun in later scenes where alcohol gets the better of Ruth and she lets her hair down. Finch also does well as well-meaning adoptive mother Sylvia, trying to do her best but failing to connect with Bex despite her efforts. The rest of the cast also give strong support and have a great energy and chemistry as a group.

‘Lit’s set design by Lulu Tam of stark outlines is minimal but striking, creating an almost alien-like atmosphere, assisted by Peter Small’s lighting design. Together it creates a feeling that is the furthest from ‘home’ as possible, helping to highlight Bex’s feelings of lack of connection even further. 

The play loses none of its pace or power by being watched online, and offers the benefit of being able to rewatch it which will probably reap further insights. It is also fascinating to have a teenage girl’s story told in such a raw way by two female creatives, it lends the piece real authenticity and power that a male viewpoint wouldn’t have captured. It’s an engrossing watch, not always an easy one, but thoroughly deserves to be seen.

 ‘Lit’ contains very strong language and adult themes throughout, and is not suitable for audiences under 16 years of age.  It runs at 90 minutes and is viewable On Demand until 31st May 2022, unlimited viewings for 5 days after purchase. 

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