Review: My Mate Ren @ Alphabetti Theatre (05/05/22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photos by Davey Poremba

Liquid eyeliner, pre-party shaving, Cherry Sourz, first kisses, sneaking booze, feeling like you’re in an episode of Skins—all of the ephemera and sense memories of being between sixteen and eighteen in a particular time and place are baked hard into My Mate Ren, the vivid backdrop for a chaotic dive into the universal emotionality of being that age on the very night you find yourself.

A knockabout story of going to that first ‘grown-up’ proper party-party, Jackie Edwards is the beating heart of My Mate Ren. Flying solo for near-ninety minutes and paired once again with sensational Cheer Up Slug writer Tamsin Rees, Edwards is effusive about returning to collaborate with the County Durham playwright.

“I feel very lucky to be working on Tamsin’s writing again,” she says, “we have a really good working relationship, and their kind of writing is the kind of new writing that I thrive on, so I feel very grateful that they still want me to bring their words to life.” 

Boasting sparse set design and striking direction from Holly Gallagher, My Mate Ren deftly handles sexual harassment and coercion themes within a vivid and realistic setting—these kids smoke, drink, swear, and fuck—making the comedy sing out all the brighter. Yet again, Rees showcases a knack for writing compelling, realistic characters that speak like real people. 

“What attracted me to the play is Tamsin’s writing, always Tamsin’s writing,” says Edwards. “It’s so, so bold and intelligent, and I learn so much each time I work on one of their texts.”

Effusive and hilarious, Edwards makes the machine-gun delivery of Rees firecracker dialogue and the conjuring of a raft of additional characters feel effortless, anchoring the whole thing with a warm, affecting, and borderline-hypnotic performance as Alex. Commanding the room straight out of the gate, you can’t take your eyes off her.

“This opportunity to do a one-person show that tells a complex story and take it on tour is a new step in my career,” reflects Edwards, “and I’m very grateful for the personal and professional growth it’s given me.” 

A night on the tiles, a whirlwind romance, a thrilling evocation of queer teenage angst (you’ll remember one soaringly-romantic moment in particular for weeks), and an epic journey only one night long, My Mate Ren is tight, compelling and unmissable.

My Mate Ren will be showing at Queen’s Hall Art Centre, Hexham on Thursday 19th May

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