By Fred Pryce
One of theatre’s greatest strengths is the ability to convey a world’s worth of problems through just a stage and a couple of actors; personal dramas becoming a microcosm of the human condition. You can witness a perfect example of this at Kings Cross Theatre, the daunting title If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You masking the intimate, important and absorbing romance that fills the small space, even if that isn’t obvious from minute one. A two-hander taking place entirely on a slanted metal roof, we watch caustic, laddish Mikey (Eddie Orton) and the younger and gentler Casey (Elijah Williams) joke, panic and hang out above the judging eyes (and cops) of small-town Ireland. They’ve just stolen the titular coke and five hundred quid from Casey’s mother and her dealing boyfriend, as well as some snacks from a local store. Their crime is refreshingly amateurish, a mix of breathless enthusiasm and fear driving their adrenaline-fueled banter, and the dialogue drips information at a perfect pace to keep our interest. They speak like real people do, never concerned with the audience understanding every detail (and the thick accents and slang are always enjoyable). The play has a master’s ease, making the fact that it’s John O’Donovans debut work just astounding.
They’re trapped on the roof by circumstance, but the metaphorical implications of their escape become clear as we learn more about them. 18-year old Casey is an outsider in more ways than one, a closeted black Londoner who faces social exclusion because of familial ties, and Williams’ nuanced and joyous performance is the highlight of the show. Mikey is a live-wire who has learned to cope with persecution through violence and humour, his laddishness both in defence of and part of his gay identity. Orton’s performance bristles with raw energy, as well as some light, jocular touches, the actor adding a lot of personalised quirks to his vocals and almost dance-like movements. He seems poised to jump off the roof swinging at any moment, the set design and physical direction creating constant tension as they slide and clatter heavily on the metal, props flung precariously towards the gutter (Melanie Herbert’s sound design of the street below aids this perfectly). The play grows more immersive as we learn more of the hidden tensions and traps that draw them together and keep them apart. You can feel the sun going down behind them, director Warwick Doddrell expertly evoking mood and setting. But this is no simple romance - it’s a drama bathed in grit and social complexity, and their mutual longing remains murky beneath this.
As the story grows close to ending and repeatedly doesn’t, you realise that they stay on this roof partly because they don’t want to leave each other. It’s a realisation that’s both hopeful and heartbreaking.
Photo Credit: Jasmin Simmons
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.