first_img4/5 Abstract, minimalist, lots of swearing – this has to be new writing. Though you might groan at the prospect of disjointed dialogue and wistful speeches made with an air of superficial significance, this is not the writer Miles Mantle venting his own angst. Now and Only is bearable precisely because it keeps the focus on its characters. They are the self-centred ones, who spin out their own frustration with a yarn of empty clichés and inconsistent truisms. Their tendency to over-complicate their own thoughts contrasts with the simplicity of the bear plot: Nick (Miles Mantle) is with four friends drinking one night. His imminent death is signalled by the very first scene. However, we are transported back in time to see how these friends interact. Sex is clearly top of the agenda. Olly (Max Schofield) fancies himself as a bit of a player, while Dan (Chris Stefanowicz) is intent on falling in love at some point, but too naïve to know when that will be. Jamie (Lewis Goodall) seems to have a worthier status in the group, voicing his emotions with clarity and showing sympathy where it is due. Creating this dependable source of sanity for the audience, Mantle throws his viewers off balance by choosing to reveal that homosexual Finn (Raymond Blackenhorn) has managed to entice Jamie in the past. All this sexual tension is particularly unnerving when mixed with the exposure of suicidal tendencies and Nick’s inevitable death. For all their troubles, there is little the characters can do except eulogise on their helplessness. Director Matt Ryan has chosen to mirror this with similarly static blocking and simple lighting, while the BT alone manages to enforce a claustrophobic feel. Some may find the coarse, sexually-orientated dialogue forced, but this is a grippingly intense world, dominated by five men. Unappealing as it might seem, this is just how a group of insecure males behave – anything less would be an understatement. Unfortunately, due to the simplistic plot, the play’s scope is limited and undeveloped; we are encouraged to empathise and feel curious about what happened on the night that changed their lives, but too many gaps are left unfilled for the conclusion to be satisfying. Regardless, for what it is now, there are only two performances left. Worth viewing – it’s now or never! By Frankie Parham 9:30pm Fri4:30pm SatBT, New Writing Festivallast_img

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