Radar 2015 is the Bush’s signature, eclectic mix of new writing presented as a festival each year. Some of the work is new and fresh but already famous (This is How We Die by Christopher Brett Bailey) and some of it takes its first steps at the festival. Misty, written and performed by Arinze Kene, is one of those first look pieces. No More Worries fits somewhere in-between as a two-hander co-production with The Albany, Apples and Snakes, and the Arc Stockton. Both of these small, brilliant, funny productions use poetic rhythms to create shows that tease out how we present theatre today.
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road,” writes Jack Kerouac, in his classic American novel On the Road. Kerouac’s ‘beat’ sensibility captured here is what both Kieran, a late-twenties lad stuck in a sleepy seaside town, and Paul, a fifties VW van traveller, are seeking in No More Worries. They meet fortuitously. Kieran (Simon Mole) has been out with his home friends to the club they first tried to get into aged 15. Paul (Peader Kirk) calls him Kerouac as they hit the road in his VW camper van, ‘Olive’. It’s all presented as a colloquially poetic soliloquy by Mole, who captures perfectly the drops and highs of a local club night. He delivers all Paul’s lines himself – the rhythm of the storytelling never relenting, only interrupted by ‘tuuuunes’. Kirk sits chilling in front of a macbook with a simple mix desk, controlling the soundtrack (mostly dance, usually on point, though one track becomes too repetitive) and visuals. Kirk, who plays Paul, remains voiceless as an actor on stage. It’s very much Kieran’s story.
Their quest, though, is ostensibly Paul’s. He’s on a journey of no more than 57 miles a day to capture photographs of today’s views from the exact same angle of postcards from the past. Apart from this constant rehashing of the past, his catchphrase is: what matters but now? Through tai chi mornings, important breakfasts, partying in a field with some Spaniards, and a girl, the pair develop a friendship which helps both of them heal from loss. For who hasn’t lost someone?
The best thing about No More Worries is the witty delivery from Mole. He manages to use beautiful catch phrases (“Dark water. Choppy white wave tops” was a personal favourite) to make a quite conventional story about journeying (metaphorically/literally) into the past thoroughly entertaining. It loses pace a little though the middle, but kicks hard with a tough, urgent narrative to conclude.
The storytelling all gets a little more meta and a bit more work-in-progress with Arinze Kene’s Misty. Bene blends rhythm, rhyme and direct address into a mic, with scenes of single-handed storytelling. It feels part stand-up, part rap, and part one-hander. And there are orange balloons. They’re a bit absurd, very dramatic and possibly a metaphor for creative blocks or distractions. His friend Raymond sends them to him. We never meet Raymond. We never find out why Raymond sends him balloons. I love that that doesn’t matter in the slightest.
Sometimes Kene rips into his own playwriting process – there’s a mentor he chats to on the phone who has a god-like voiceover. Sometimes he’s in a fight or being kicked out his house. One time he’s with a girl. There’s a good knowing laugh from the audience when an Aunty tells him to get a ‘proper job’. All the time he’s finding ways to explore ‘the city that we live in’ and the frustrations of forming a good existence.
The live drumming is hard, loud. The keys player delivers. Sometimes it feels like we might be at a gig. That only becomes a problem when Kene speaks fast into the mic and the drumming overpowers him. But those moments are few and far between. Kene has created a brightly innovative portrait of young life in the city.
Radar Festival is at the Bush Theatre until 26 November. For more information and tickets, see Bush Theatre website.