Review: Shelter at the Tristan Bates Theatre

By Carmel Shortall

Shelter is a collection of three short plays by Never Properly Born Theatre Company that explore the early stages of adult life from various perspectives: two young party-goers meeting for the first time (Strangers); a young couple getting to that tricky stage where they start to want different things (Lovers) and three old university flat-mates meet up again at a wedding having enjoyed mixed levels of success after college (Lost Friends).

In Strangers, two people meet while leaving a party – he is studying law, she’s happy working in a boutique in her gap year and doesn’t know what to do. She seems eager, even desperate to please while he appears charmless sullen – even denouncing rugby as ‘gay’.     

In Lovers, an innocent  conversation about how old clothes invariably evolve into ‘pyjamas’ quickly spirals into a ‘where are we going?’ type conversation. She is a teacher and wants kids, a house in the country while he works in a bar, has no ambition and is happy with the status quo: “we’re all right, aren’t we? Aren’t we?”

In Lost Friends, initial reminiscences about good times leads to something darker: is Andy just jealous of his ex-flatmates’ success or is he angry at being ‘abandoned’ after college?

All three plays examine life from a slightly privileged perspective: characters are all potential ‘stakeholders’ in glib political parlance. They have university educations, jobs, somewhere decent to live and, above all, choices – particularly the choice of whether to grow up or not. If Shelter also included portrayals of young people coping with being ‘locked out’ of one or more of these, it might have felt much more relevant.

Despite the limited perspective, Shelter is well-written and direction is crisp – making good use of the black box space in the Tristan Bates theatre. The cast acquit themselves well – the two performing in Love being particularly effective. Unfortunately a cast list wasn’t available when I was reviewing so I have been unable to name individuals though all are part of new young company – Never Properly Born made up of ex RADA, LAMDA and National Youth Theatre students.

Shelter continues at the Tristan Bates Theatre (1 Tower St, off Shaftesbury Avenue) until Saturday 11th August at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10, concs. £8 

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About Camden Fringe Voyeur

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