The Lowry 02 April 2017
Seeing a play entitled #YOLO on The Lowry’s NT Connections programme did not initially inspire me with confidence. But Matthew Bulgo’s piece – performed here by CYGNETS – belies its trendy social media-inspired title by focussing on Jack, a teenager who is diagnosed with a brain tumour on his A Level results day.
The diagnosis scene happens very early on, and Jack spends most of the play avoiding communication with his friends and family. This is symbolised through the use of a loud indie music soundtrack, which plays whenever Jack puts headphones over his ears – shutting out reality, and cleverly putting the audience inside his head.
In spite of this, Jack is often a silent presence onstage. A lot of Bulgo’s script is devoted not to Jack’s illness and its consequences, but to the antics of his friends, which are often amusing but have little relevance to the central plot line.
There is a fair sprinkling of “young people” clichés too, including group selfies, drunken vomiting and theatrical break ups, but overall the CYGNET cast do seem comfortable with the material. They work together well as an ensemble, performing with confidence and demonstrating great comic timing.
Ultimately though, the dark and emotive subject matter is the most impactful aspect of #YOLO. The scene when Jack is on his own at the beach, listening to music and getting progressively more drunk, may be a tad over long but is convincingly performed.
Much like The Snow Dragons, #YOLO ends on a darkly ambiguous note, with Jack waiting in the hospital ward surrounded by his friends. Although the outcome of his imminent operation is unknown, there is hope – a relevant message for our times and for all those suffering from illness.
Reviewer: Georgina Wells