There are a great many themes considered in Bedlam’s adaptation of Luke Norris’ book So Here We Are. Outwardly, the characters (of questionable names), Smudge, Pugh, Pidge are bullish and boisterous, beer in hand and bantering between each other (until one invariably takes it too far and there’s a stand-off moment). Dan sits almost out of the view of the audience, looking pensive.
The opening scene is, sadly, frustrating. The composition of characters and set design works extremely well visually, and yet the long pauses and sighs from the characters (meant to denote boredom and long-waiting about something we were yet to find out), drag on too long. At one point, I wondered if the play would ever start.
The scenes that follow are more cohesive and fluent, and the real strength comes from the moments on stage shared by the boys in pairs. Though a little exaggerated (if cringy) in their 'Essex-boy' swaggers, the cast are generally strong. Smudge's sharing a long-held secret with Dan is sweetly done, and a really touching moment. Equally, Smudge’s demeanour as the seemingly half-witted member of the gang is also well translated and believable. Other moments too, such as the five black balloons on stage, the cheers-ing to Frankie’s memory, and the suggestion that they couldn’t play five-aside again also stand out, as the characters seek to deal with the terrible loss of a friend.
The whispers and gossip around whether or not Frankie’s death is an accident or suicide are also brought to attention. Kirsty (Frankie’s girlfriend) is visibly bereaved and angry, struggling to deal with the overwhelming emotions that come with death. Here, the audience gets an insight into all the character’s modes of coping, from a quiet pain (as Dan), to Pugh and Pidge, refusing to give in to vulnerability.
There are some moments of exaggeration, and the performances are sometimes overdone. Nevertheless, those touching confessional moments on stage linger with me the next day.
So Here We Are runs at the Bedlam Theatre until 5 March 2020.