An emotive and amusing coming of age story, The Static explores the boredom, lust, confusion and the surprising psychic abilities of one teenage boy. Utilizing slick physical theatre and absorbing video projection, this is a beautifully realized production that tackles some surprisingly gritty themes with a whimsical touch.
We follow the story of Sparky, wonderfully portrayed by 21 year old Brian Vernel, who, true to his name is bright yet volatile, clearly an intelligent teenager but unchallenged and restless. Continually in detention, here he meets the mysterious Siouxie, (Samantha Foley) who opens his eyes to incredible psychic powers and electrifying desire.
Vernel is confident and accomplished, bursting with energy and vigour from his first moments and transfixing the audience with the challenging gaze of a demanding youth. The rest of the cast are equally engaging and skilful, particularly the glowing Pauline Lockheart, whose careful portrayal of Sparky’s anxious, yet warm-hearted student councillor offers a surprising touch.
Choreography from Neil Bettles elsewhere of Frantic Assembly is beautifully fluid and precise. A fantasy Kung Fu scene between Lockheart and a bunch of dim-witted teenagers is wonderfully executed. Lockheart effortlessly carried by her colleague, played by Nick Rhys, as she unleashes punches and kicks, playfully borrowing from The Matrix and Tarantino is a highlight.
The stage is simple yet versatile. Large school lockers are used to great effect: climbed on, spun, used as blank screens upon which Sparky’s internal strife is projected, before being swiftly parted, as if willed to do so by his telekinetic powers, allowing him to strut on his way. The same slick control is applied to smaller objects, zipping about the stage in the hands of the agile cast as Sparky discovers the dimensions to his wondrous abilities.
However, whilst the visual elements of The Static were broadly captivating, something didn’t sit right with the buoyant tone and effortless physical theatre both of which jarred with the challenging themes. The narrative deals with a series of serious issues somewhat flippantly; attention deficit disorder, anxiety, paedophilia, revenge, and death are all either introduced in an overly conversational way, or too bluntly by the chirpy cast. Sparky’s climactic urge to destroy his school, running through the corridors wielding a knife, was painfully close to a grim reality and could have done with a more careful touch.
Fantastical and frequently delightful, The Static offers us a compassionate and light-hearted engagement with teenage life, a warning of what can happen if we write off their uncertainty and restlessness as abnormal nuisance, while we trivialise the potential energies of our youth.