Written by Jim Cartwright
Directed by Anthony Banks
Presented by Riverside Studios and Assembly Festival
Unity Theatre, Liverpool
10th – 11th June 2016

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Wasted Lives

Incongruously sitting on the floor of the entrance hall of the Unity were a couple of bus loads of young schoolgirls. They too had come for the first night of Jim Cartwright’s, RAZ. The acerbic playwright came to prominence with The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice in 1992. Tonight’s one man show, starred his son James as pleasure chasing Shane.

He is a stacker-truck driver and, like the characters of his mates, who he introduces into the action, lives only for Friday nights when they go out on the ‘raz’.

Shane lives at home with his parents. Nothing strange in that, but in these days of increasing zero hour contract austerity, nearly one in four young people between the ages of 20 to 34 years-of-age have been forced back to the nest according to the Office of National Statistics; and that figure’s on the rise.

Our gritty Northern lad loves his end of week set routine. Nine minutes under a sun tan shop’s Ultra Violet lights, then home to press-ups before donning clean,(washed by his mum of course), Superman blue underpants and red socks, before a narcissistic appreciation of his honed six pack and swept back jet black hair. He is up for it alright, as he forgoes his mum’s useless offer of beans on toast for tea.

Out to the nearest alehouse, first up it’s some rocket fuel (a pint followed by an 80% Polish vodka chaser) as he introduces himself, then ‘Robbo’, ‘Sparky’ and ‘cod gob’ ‘Tag’, as a mesmerising pub crawl evolves. The action is comedic; in best boy tradition the talk gravitates from work to football to birds as their, just bought, preferred drugs of choice are lined up and more booze is downed.

Shane’s guiding mantra? Alcohol, cocaine, viagra, protected sex or anything else he can get holds sway as he surveys the ranks of fake tanned, ‘plastered girls’, in Scarlet’s Bar and again later in the sweaty, stinking queue for a night club.

Inside the atmosphere of loud music and strobe lighting make it impossible to talk or make out people around him. With his senses reeling the mood and events darken as the nervous audience laughter falters when he encounters his ex, first with her mates and then with a man for company. What was once the best thing on him, is now on another’s arm, with devastating consequences.

Cartwright performs for around fifty minutes non-stop, with hardly any props. A smoke machine to indicate changes of scene, a can of deodorant to woo the girls in the front rows, and a big bouncy ball rolled onto the stage from up high in the auditorium – the portents of which were unclear- doubled as his seat in the taxi induced finale.

Out into the cool of the night, having survived the bouncers fists, he heads into a dawn chorus that can only herald more of the same expensive empty outcomes and return to the drudgery of his low paid job. Shane typifies a lost generation indeed.

The lights and sounds, indicative of venue scenario, helped to structure the unfolding nightmare, as the actor moved effortlessly through his dads ‘it’s rough up north’ lifestyle monologue. We have all been there or thereabouts on occasion but for most it’s a passing, not a terminal phase.

It was a moving spectacle, deserving of the full house applause, as much for the play’s thought-provoking content as its dynamic acting.

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