Draw on your memories of the very worst nights out as a late teen/early twenty-something. Exactly. You’d rather not remember.
Screwed gives centre stage- or centre space on the sticky dance floor- to Charlene and Luce, two friends who have dedicated the majority of their lives to drinking, dancing, shagging, more drinking and the odd sniff of poppers.
If they were both still in their early twenties we might laugh off their Dionysian partying as a symptom of youthful effervescence, but Luce and Charlene are chipping away at their thirties, in a dead-end factory job with one notch too many scratched into their bed post.
With a slurry of coarse jokes and what feels like a sustained 90-minute rampage, the play exposes the reality of two lives that have failed to reign in their excesses. Their misguided interpretation of Carpe Diem or the more modern version, YOLO, means they’re searching for nothing more meaningful than the next bottle of vodka or the next man to fuck in the ladies’ toilets. Whilst Charlene (Samantha Robinson) has moments of clarity in her fledging relationship with Paulo (Stephen Myott-Meadows), the majority of the play simply presents us with two tragic characters who are already on the decline. And while the playwright (Kathryn O’Reilly) gives us some insight their unconventional upbringings, I was rather baffled at the decision to make Luce’s father a trans gay man; it seems like too easy an explanation for the girls’ wayward lives.
In many ways O’Reilly’s is another ‘Broken Britain’ play; not providing any answers but smacking the audience in the face with the shitness of life for those in our society who are overlooked or under-priveledged. That’s not to say Luce and Charlene are all doom and gloom; their alcohol-numbed conversation gives the audience a lot the laugh at, and Luce (Eloise Joseph) has great comic timing in her delivery of ladette jokes. The play is also structured with some interesting group monologues that rely on a waterfall delivery, with all four members of cast speaking over one another and these work well to speed up the pace and vary the otherwise naturalistic style of the play.
Although you wouldn’t expect a gritty play like this to have a fairy-tale ending, you also don’t expect the audience to feel indifferent to the characters’ plight. The two women are presented with such distasteful realism that I’m not sure anyone in the audience was rooting for them or their happiness.