Picture a very stroppy, very angry teenager, rebelling against everyone and everything. We all know at least one, don’t we? In Spine, this intense one woman show written by Clara Brennan, Amy is that typically ferocious teenager whose path is littered with poor decisions, wrong relationships and very little real connection.
Until she knocks on the door of Glenda’s house to enquire about a room to let, that is. Recounting this transformative tale in a truly authentic way is a challenge that for the most part, actor Rosie Wyatt rises to. Surrounded by tall stacks of books on all sides, this feisty young adult delivers an engaging performance of the explosive, unlikely connection between an isolated, eccentric old lady and a foul-mouthed teenager sporting a black eye. The mischievous Glenda almost becomes a second character on stage, although slips into rather a caricature at times.
From the opening line, the content is deliberately shocking – not just the extremely colourful language you might well expect, but graphic sexual descriptions and frequent gross references to bodily functions too…nothing’s held back, nothing at all. When Amy lets the mask slip and her raw pain is uncomfortably exposed, those are the precious moments of fleeting connection with her audience. And then there are a lot of laughs to lighten the mood and a feel-good conclusion with an uplifting message to take away.
It all turns out well in the end. Of course it does. Amy is transformed by the older woman’s belief in her. Which feels somewhat predictable and not entirely satisfactory. Books can change a life. Really? We’d all like to think so, but…maybe when you live with one of these teenagers like I do, it’s hard to let yourself believe in the seemingly impossible. That fairy tale ending could never feel completely convincing.