Speech and Debate

Set in a high school in the politically correct yet puritanical town of Salem, Oregon, a trio of misfits begrudgingly join forces to uncover a sex scandal by reviving an unpopular school club. There’s Solomon, an ambitious school newspaper reporter, Howie, a new boy with insalubrious internet habits, and Diwata, a zealous actress whose enthusiasm isn’t rewarded with the leading roles she craves.

Tom Attenborough’s production, in which each scene is punctuated by Speech and Debate terminology: Poetry Reading, Extemporaneous Commentary, and so on, is delightful yet lacks gravitas. A friendship which is based on mutual blackmail and the hunt on the sex-offender teacher tails off, the kids’ righteousness undermined by their own problems. We frequently see the character at point A: with the problem and then at point B with the issue seemingly resolved with no middle ground on how they got to their conclusion.

Douglas Booth as Howie combines the golden arrogance of youth with the gnawed uncertainty. Tony Revolori plays Solomon as rather vacuous; he doesn’t yet seem relaxed on the stage and his performance suffers due to this. Patsy Ferran is superb as the impish, headstrong and slightly crazed Diwata. She oozes comedy, be it from the flick of the wrist or from defusing the tension between the boys to dancing enthusiastically to George Michael’s ‘Freedom’. Ferran is one the one you leave the theatre wanting to watch more of.

Playwright: Stephen Karam
Director: Tom Attenborough
Assistant Director: Robbie Taylor Hunt
Set Designer: Francesca Reidy
Lighting Designer: Christopher Nairne
Sound Designer: Simon Slater
Costume Designer: Natalie Pryce
Video Design: Duncan Mclean and Stanley Orwin-Fraser
Movement Director: Shelby Williams
Dialect Coach: Simon Money
Cast: Douglas Booth, Patsy Ferran, Tony Revolori, Charlotte Lucas

Photo: Simon Annad

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