/ Review / Writing: Journalism

Final Score (***)

An argument between adult couples hinges on their children in Lisa Fulthorpe’s tragi-comedy, and the result starts well, but quickly descends into hysterical melodrama. Decent performances and clean direction mean that the production works, but it could do with a more settled plot. At the Camden Fringe.

Celebrating the shared 16th birthday party of their children, maternity-ward-couple-friends Samantha and Christie (and their respective husbands, Eddy and Keith) get into a romantic and emotional muddle. Samantha and Eddy bemoan their son’s lack of ambition, while Christie and Keith’s son may soon be signing a million-pound contract to train as a footballer – but things turn out to be less clean-cut as the couples tangle and their relationships unfurl, although events take a turn for the worse as questions of parenting are overshadowed by very real tragedy.

There’s a nice Abigail’s-Party sense that we’re not privy to the main story of Final Score – the lad’s evening the two sons are going on is described in detail, as is each boy, and it’s the differences between these two that fuel much of the argument between the sets of parents. In the awkward party from hell, a collection of late 30-somethings who married and had kids young rekindle their youth with plenty of alcohol and a ‘herbal cigarette’ or two – and it quickly becomes clear that children have replaced many of their own dreams and ambitions. If there was ever an advertisement for not having children too young, this is it – both fathers bully their children (for very different reasons), while the mothers mollycoddle, as if they weren’t (and aren’t) mature enough to work out what their children need from them.

However, on the surface, there’s much drunken fun to be had, and Lisa Fulthorpe’s comic credentials from her time on Smack the Pony pay off – there’re plenty of quirky and funny moments, and much of the play balances funny lines and an emotionally fraught situation tactfully and enjoyably. There’s also some very pleasant character writing going on – while it’s clear from the off-set that there’s some potential for partner-swapping, as neither married couple seems happy and their personalities clearly align better to the friend’s partner, things unravel unexpectedly and poke fun at preconceived stereotypes.

But, towards the end, the writing then veers into uncharted, melodramatic waters – the light situation suddenly becomes very heavy for the last fifteen minutes, and the tone feels peculiarly mismatched to the dialogue, with a number of grim tragedies striking one after the other. It feels awkward, and doesn’t work anywhere near as well, unsettling the whole plot.

It’s a shame, because much of the show works well – the performers are all good, but they all struggle with histrionics towards the end. The natural set, with multiple locations cleverly created, is well-constructed and designed, and the direction is very clean – scenes are clear, blocked and staged well, and the performers bounce off each other with vigour and energy. But this all falls apart with the unwelcome final plot twists – the direction is suddenly jerky, the performers are awkward, and the blocking feels unnatural.

It’s a real shame, because everything up to that point was really quite good – missing real bite, but watchable and clever.


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