Cathy Forde’s Empty is everything wrong with theatre geared towards teenagers. It is cliché-ridden with shallow characters, a predictable plot and feeble attempts to sound authentic. Perhaps the best way to enjoy it is to make a list of every possible thing that could occur in a story set during a teenage house party and tick the boxes as, one-by-one, they all eventually happen.
It is the end of the school year and Cal’s parents are off to London, leaving him alone for the weekend. He asks the girl of his dreams if she wants to come over, but rather than coming alone she asks half the school along to have a massive party. Shenanigans ensue.
There is not one thing that occurs that hasn’t been seen in the countless films and TV programmes with the same set-up, and the dialogue sounds at best forced, like someone trying to be cool and throwing in the occasional lingo in hopes that they’re right in its use. There is the rare humorous moment and a single attempt within the plot to add a bit of weight, but these in the end come off as desperate attempts to salvage a production that is pretty much dead on arrival.
Vicky Featherstone does the best she can with the material. Her staging is a mixture of radio drama and Brechtian practices, with the company of five making a cacophony of noise to create the ambiance of a larger, out-of-control party. These staging techniques are actually quite interesting, even entertaining, and make for some genuine good moments, but they at best make the production tolerable.
Featherstone, along with her cast and production team, do the best they can, but Forde’s script is so appallingly bad that they end up fighting a losing battle, creating a production that in the end leaves one…empty.
Originally written for Onstage Scotland.
Touring Scotland until April 2. For details, see NTS’s website.
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