To the Young Vic last night for You Can See The Hills (running until 9 May). Written and directed by Matthew Dunster, it's just over two hours watching William Ash (from the capsule with Martha Jones in 42) sit in a chair, telling tales of his school days in Oldham. There's the time he got hit by a teacher, the time his ex claimed she was pregnant, and love and death and drugs and torture...
Ash is outstanding. It's awe-inspiring enough that he he can remember the script (see Ken Levine's blogs on how to memorise scripts: part one; part two; part three).
But it's not like it could work if Ash'd read from an autocue – this is more than just telling a story. The script itself is rich and vivid, putting us right at the heart of the action and feeling. It keeps turning about, one moment rude and funny, the next appalling and tragic. Ash tells the story, impersonating the friends and girls and parents when they need to speak. The lighting and occasional moments of music also add to the spell. It's a conjuring trick: a memoir so simply, so effectively brought to life.
It's interesting to compare the similarly confessional and rude New Boy. This is a much more violent story, but it's also much less about the actions of the narrator. Some of the most effective, telling moments in You Can See The Hills are things happening to other people, with Ash on the periphery. There's the girl doing heroin, the boy with the violent dad and the time Ash doesn't intervene when two boys bully a girl in front of a jeering crowd.
Both plays are narrated by boys who are scared and selfish and horny. But New Boy is about the things Nicholas Hoult's character does; You Can See The Hills seems more about Ash's lack of achievements.
(This is my 800th post on this blog.)