Departure Lounge

Written by Dougal Irvine
Unity Theatre
1st to 4th February 2012

Reviewed by Jennifer Keegan

As the audience enters the theatre and begin to take their seats, the cast are already waiting onstage, four young lads messing around with a beach ball seemly killing time in an airport. When the audience settles, the four lads spring into a musical number to introduce themselves and the situation. We learn that Ross, Jordan, Pete and JB have been stuck at the airport for over 9 hours awaiting their homeward bound flight following a holiday in Spain. They are due to return to A-level results and an uncertain future with the offers of university places hanging in the balance.

From the off they are boisterous and playful, bounding all over the stage and each other with quips full of innuendo and language that might make a more conservative crowd uncomfortable. As it happens the audience embraced both the physical energy and the colourful language of the show. Without the physical horseplay the language and tone of conversation might have been offensive, but you cannot help but warm to these characters as they lark about and slowly open up about their fears and insecurities.

As they wait to board the plane, each looks back over their holiday and evaluates both their interactions with Sophie, a girl they met on holiday, and their groups’ friendships and dynamics. We see each of their interactions with Sophie as flashbacks that become distorted by their individual insecurities and concerns. The lad who has realised he is gay but has yet to come out, the cocky self assured lad who longs to be part of close knit group to make up for the dysfunctional family he comes from, the runt of the group who longs to be free from the shackles the group ties him into and the orphan who just wants to be loved.

Perhaps the departure lounge in itself symbolic of their wait to transition into adults, they see Spain as the last hurrah of their childhood. As their plane is eventually called, they sing about leaving Spain, perhaps leaving their childhood behind as they step towards the unknown future with only each other for support. The musical aspect helps to uncover the more moving thoughts of the characters with an ease that may have otherwise been lost, all four lads hold their own but the standout vocal goes to Sophie played by Hayley Clarke, her cheekiness as Sophie almost hides the talent of her voice but luckily she gets to stretch her legs vocally before the show is over.

Departure Lounge has everything you could want in a musical, vocal talent, a playful but heartfelt cast, crude but funny jokes and a moving almost sad underlying story. Overall, a playful coming of age story against the backdrop of childhood friendships on the cusp of adulthood.

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