The play centres on feisty teenager Caroline, who is suffering from a liver disease; the future of her existence rests on a transplant. Too ill to go to school and confined to her bedroom, the only way she is able to connect with the world is via social media. Enter Anthony, a saccharine, geeky yet athletic teenage boy who has been paired with Caroline to finish an English Lit project on the poems of Walt Whitman. Together, through the ideas in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, they fiercely debate their views on love, life, dreams and the morphing pronouns of ‘I’ and ‘You’ in Whitman’s poem Song of Myself.
There are glimpses of genuine charm in these young protagonists and their obvious attraction to one another, but this magnetism doesn’t glue the piece together. Williams and Wyatt have obviously dived into their roles with gusto, but sadly the writing feels too thinly veiled for their character portrayals to truly make an impact.
I and You feels like a writing exercise where the brief has been to change the power dynamic between this duo every three pages. However, they seem to only have two modes. Caroline is either bratty and dejected, or dreamy eyed and big-hearted. Anthony is enthused and didactic, or agitated and exasperated. After several cycles of this, the play starts to feel tired, needing a transplant of its own to raise the stakes.
It’s hard to comprehend why this play has been given the platform of the main stage at the Hampstead Theatre, and why it is truly relevant to this cultural moment in the UK. That being said, I and You takes on a surprising and theatrical twist at the end, but leaves you wishing you had been given this sense of wonder from the start.
|What||I and You, Hampstead Theatre review|
|Where||Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, London, NW3 3EU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Swiss Cottage (underground)|
18 Oct 18 – 24 Nov 18, 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here to book tickets|