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  • Henry Longstaff

Flashbang - Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Five lads living for the weekend


In a small nondescript town, five friends have grown up together. Each knows their role to play in the group and naturally over time they have become dependent on one another, trapped in the cyclical repetition of middle England life. Flashbang dissects growing up in a town 20 miles away from anywhere of importance and what happens when tragedy tears one of your brothers away.

Equipped with their “Generic FC” football shirts Ryan, Jason, Andy and Deano are not the stereotypical thuggish lads often found in plays like this, instead, they are nicely nuanced and distinct yet clearly still plagued by the pressures of modern masculinity. They’ve found themselves on the relentless moving treadmill of life with few options or ideas of how to step off - mostly willing to accept their place in the world. They tell their story of how they found themselves facing incalculable loss and how as a “gang” they kept themselves going.

James Lewis has crafted an excellent script for Proforça Theatre Company that is undeniably honest and grounded yet packed with strong descriptive language and fantastic simple storytelling. The ensemble cast is therefore well-equipped to create well-rounded performances.

Sam Kacher, Ryan Emmanuel, Henry Brackenridge and Fred Wardale are well-cast and have enjoyable organic chemistry as a unit, but each is also able to have their own, often vulnerable moment, in the spotlight. There are moments when the play feels a little muddled, however, as actors speak on behalf of other characters but with some tweaks, this could be resolved easily.

David Brady has delivered some slick direction within this piece which has clearly enhanced the performances of the cast. There are some wobbles with pacing in the latter third but again with a few minor enhancements, this would not be an issue.

This production feels so close to being a finished product and ready for a future life beyond The Lion and Unicorn but it is sadly held back by a few things. Firstly the lighting design whilst solid in places needs to be rethought in much of the production. Whilst the use of projection is nice it is not a replacement for quality lighting, and frankly becomes distracting when projected onto the actors. Ensuring an actor’s face is lit is a basic necessity that was not consistently done. The sound design could equally do with some polishing to ensure that the production feels professional. All fixable adjustments for the team going forwards.

Flashbang excels as an authentic exploration of growing up as a guy in a small town with your best friends. It is truthful, visceral and packed with talent and potential. With some minor tweaks, this thing has legs and is well worth a ticket.

It runs until 17 September - Tickets

Photography - Ross Kernahan

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