It is always exciting to see new writing by young voices, and Wasted is no exception. Winner of the Bill Cashmore award, Wasted originally started out as a 10 minute scratch and has developed into a professional hour long production. Writer Chanel Fernandes and co-creative Kane Feagan’s play accomplishes just what the award seeks to. Founder Sasha Bates states that it should provide ‘a platform to those who deserve to be heard but are all too often overlooked’; this story, of two university flatmates coping with sexual assault, does exactly this. It begins with police interviews into a missing student, Jacob, and slowly reveals that this ostensible tragedy may not quite be what it seems.

Where it works, it works brilliantly. The characters are clearly drawn – Amber, the diligent student with a long-term boyfriend, and Bella, at uni more for the costume parties than for the course, form the sort of unlikely friendship that emerges in randomly assigned student accommodation. The staging is simple but effective; whilst the set remains the set-up of their uni flat, George Ogilvie’s lighting design flips between states indicating the warmth of the flat, the harsh lights of police interrogation, and the coloured haze of the SU club night. This is particularly useful given the non-linear structure of the play, starting with Jacob’s disappearance and moving backwards to show Bella and Amber’s interactions with him; a play that could easily have felt muddled was instead clearly organised, and watching it felt like seeing puzzle pieces slot into place.

The writing, though good, lacks consistency. Amber’s monologue describing the experience of sexual assault is electric, and you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium. Yet it would feel much more effective if so much of the dialogue throughout were not effective monologues from Bella and Amber – there is a lack of back and forth between them, which makes their friendship feel slightly odd. Everyone has an overbearing friend, but Amber’s seeming lack of interest in Bella’s long anecdotes about inebriation makes it difficult to later buy them as co-conspirators.

Part of this would be ameliorated by confidence in the story – because it is fantastic. Two young girls already so disillusioned by the system that they take justice into their own hands? That speaks volumes about the misogyny of the world we live in, and more faith in the social power of that story would strengthen the dialogue, which occasionally feels so eager to make its point that it forgets its characters. As a play it is undoubtedly powerful, and provoked a lot of discussion afterwards, which speaks to its success as an issue-driven play. But if Fernandes and Feagan take this story into further development, as I hope they do, it’s that confidence in the material that will push it further. They have already succeeded in getting their audience to talk, but with a little more focus on character they could get us to weep.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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