Bring It On
It’s a digital jungle out there, where only the strongest survive. The weak get their failings posted on tell.com for all the world to ridicule. In Thommas Kane Byrne’s (TKB’s) excoriating “Well That’s What I Heard” instant celebrity is only a click away if you can survive, and thrive, in the online shame game. And all before you’ve even left school. Coming at you with all the sass, class, and fabulous, finger clicking flourishes of an East Village drag queen, “Well That’s What I Heard” delivers a full frontal attack. One that holds a mirror up to the ugly hypocrisies of social media and laughs in their faces, while secretly hoping for a couple of thousand more followers so it might land a few high profile endorsements.
In TKB’s almost musically structured script, which features some cracking musical numbers, sinners become winners in the Blessed Virgin Community School, whose social hierarchy is even more rancorous than Marie Antoinette’s court. Governed by gossip, ridicule, and rumour, the girls of the Blessed Virgin revere their very own kings and queens, who are often sharpening their knives for each others throats. Zara, Amber, and Kelis, gossip girls of the Crayola variety, rule the school, Instagram, and every other social media outlet they can get followers on. With friends like these, for whom shallowness is depth, who are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, you don't need enemies. A hacked photo from her mobile phone leaked onto tell.com, sees queen Zara suddenly finding her neck on the social chopping block and her hold on the revered crown slipping. Yet in a media driven world obsessed with drug dealing Dads, two timing boyfriends, endless house parties and near fatal comas, the fight to the top is only just beginning. And when everybody is at fault but no one is responsible, you know somebody’s going to get hurt.
In “Well That’s What I Heard” TKB uses language not so much as a means to an end but as an end in itself. An instrument with which to describe lived experience, language itself becomes a lived experience. Words and phrases, not for the faint of heart, are acts and deeds, often laced with top brand, industrial strength bitchiness. TKB’s colloquial poetics don’t so much lure you into a spider's web of descriptive prettiness so much as drag you into an alleyway and mug you, lacerating you with razor sharp vividness, and leaving you grateful for the experience. TKB’s smart insights and masterly playfulness with rhyme and rhythm rightfully consigns many pretenders and imitators of the rhyming play, and teenage dramas, to the dustbin. Sure, like all the best drag queens, “Well That’s What I Heard” likes the sound of its own voice a little too much, and is prone to rambling on and embellishing the story with too much of a good thing, sagging and slowing the energy in places. Even so, it still hits you like a stiletto to the heart.
Designer Laura Honan’s astute understanding of script, venue, and cast, sees her crafting a deceptively understated set that supports the action by keeping out of the way. Wonderfully lit by Eoin Byrne, Honan’s backdrop, evoking a photographers studio, allows The Blessed Virgin’s devilish trio to strike a pose, strut their stuff, and slice each other to ribbons. Fast, flowing, deftly interweaving and rotating the action, TKB’s music-video styled direction sees Ericka Roe rock, yet again, as Amber, turning in another excellent performance. As does a massively engaging Courtney Black as the ambitious Kelis. Ciara Ivie as the popular Zara, is simply next level impressive. Whatever it is, Ivie has it, and like Black and Roe, is one you’re going to be hearing a lot more of in the future.
With its choreographed lifestyles, verbal pyrotechnics, and lacerating humour, “Well That’s What I Heard” brims with a wild, sexy energy that hits like a tsunami. If, on social media, the public get what the public wants, then the public will want to savour this wickedly dangerous cocktail. As will you. After which you will immediately take to your preferred social media platform and post that you've just witnessed one the most exciting new plays in some time, written by a remarkably promising, up-and-coming young writer, and performed by three of the wickedest young talents to be seen anywhere. That way you’ll be able to boast, ‘I saw them when.’
“Well That’s What I Heard” written and directed by Thommas Kane Byrne (TKB) runs at Theatre Upstairs until June 30
For more information, visit Theatre Upstairs