Teenage Wildlife

Time Out

September, 2000

From Ibiza To The Norfolk Broads

Thirty-one-year-old Adrian Berry's first play for Tiny Dynamite TC turns out to be that rare thing: a fringe play which exceeds all expectations. Its premise of an anorexic teenage boy obsessed with David Bowie (from whose lyrics, Bowie fans won't need reminding, the title is derived) is the stuff potential clangers are made of, but this one manages to avoid most of the pitfalls - mawkishness, platitudes, etc - its subject matter courts.

Set almost entirely in a hospital ward (where, unrealistically, two teenage girls share a room with another boy, Bowie devotee Martin) the play revolves around Martin's unhealthy fixation and his dysfunctional family, and explores the ways in which troubled souls fasten themselves to false safety-nets.

Though Berry as both writer and director doesn't quite pull off the magic realist moment of Martin's triumph over extreme adversity, the play never patronises or simplifies, but stays true to its convincingly complex characters. Alex Clarke is touching in the lead role, while fellow patient Clare Jackson carries off the two-faced, defensively needy teen with great sensitivity. And in a nice cameo turn, the comedian Rob Newman provides the voice of David Bowie. There are many weak moments - not least Berry's habit of loading his characters up with lines too flashily crafted to be credible - but it is equally full of perspicacity and imagination and leaves the strong impression that Berry, as writer, is one to watch.

-- Madeleine North

Until 16 Sept, Camden People's Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, NW1 (020 7961 5878).

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