There’s a score that runs through the transitions of this unlikely-friendship-between-misfits-cum-London-odyssey play: Mark Jacquemin’s fizzy, buzzy electronic composition intrigues us, yet simultaneously feels flat. It’s an observation that can be applied to the production as a whole.
Berri George’s Shadow Kingdoms is about Ben and Megan, two ostensibly contrasting teens who come together over a shared love of graffiti. He’s overly keen, desperate to impress, bullied at school. She’s jaded, streetwise, but with a core of vulnerability that’s clear from a mile off. You know the types.
Luckily, Katie Warren and Jorden Myrie’s chemistry means that they are able to mostly sidestep the clichés associated with the “social misfits coming together” story. They’re aided by George’s sharp dialogue and deep, considered characterisation. They crackle and bounce off each other, both hurting, both desperate for some type of connection, some type of thrill.
And yet, for all the dialogue’s sparkiness, Adam Dattis’ production lacks verve. There are occasional movement interludes, choreographed by James Berkery, which lack the tactility you’d imagine a show about street art would have – the adrenaline, the fear, the excitement. Clunky transitions give the show a bagginess which it doesn’t need, and the play isn’t perfect either – George overstretches her material, with what could have been a tight one-hour show overextended to two hours.
Occasional monologues from both characters, rather than providing the insight which is already embedded in George’s writing, break up the dynamism of their duologues. George does also hint towards some political commentary alongside the solidly character-based drama – the weighting of the police system against black people, the lack of care our society has towards its most vulnerable – but shies away from doubling down on these points. It’s a shame. There’s a lot to like in this play, but it just doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Shadow Kingdoms is at Theatre503 until June 16th. For more details, click here.