Review: WiLd, Tutti Frutti

Tutti Frutti's WiLd is a masterclass in theatre-making.
Tutti Frutti's WiLd is a masterclass in theatre-making.
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Billy is just about to have his e11th birthday. His mother has just become a single parent, and her youngest son believes that his dad has moved somewhere far away and remote. Billy takes solace in his communication problems with his bees, a hobby that borders on the obsessional. For a lad his age he has a talent for self-analysis, which chimes with nothing else in his character, and which is almost self-destructive. But Billy is no ordinary little boy – what lad of his age is? However, what marks him as being apart from the other, and the others, is that he has ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is defined as having problems with attention, hyperactivity and impulsive actions. About one in 10 schoolchildren suffer from it, the incidence is rather less in adults. It can be treated, but it is frequently confused with a child being naughty, out of control (possibly with bad parenting issues) or sheer wilfulness. There is a chasm of difference between exuberance and being the victim of ADHD. In Evan Placey’s admirable short play, there is only one character on stage, Billy himself, played with astounding energy, clarity and empathy by Rhys Warrington.

Placey’s poignant drama is full of verbal and stylistic experiment, augmented by a percussive soundtrack (played live on stage by Molly Lopresti, and composed by Dominic Sales) and he is brilliantly served by Mr. Warrington, who understands the business of connecting, of getting in emotional touch with his audience. He is (I believe) actually in his early twenties, but has already discovered the touchstone of his craft, and is constantly fascinating to watch. Not only does he have linguistic deftness and appeal (entirely natural in his manner of delivery), but he also has an incredible agility, which convinces us that, yes, he genuinely is a decade younger than his real years, about to leave primary school, and about to experience a wider world.

Billy has a sleeping demon within him, but it is a saucy one, a tormentor that is cheeky rather than evil. His outbursts come in frustrated spasms, but to him, they are completely “normal”, a part of everyday, inexplicable life. He’s the lad who is at one with his surroundings, the problems is that his surroundings and actions don’t seem to be at one with him. He is bursting with goodwill and intelligence, but something within him has channelled his actions into the wrong thoroughfare. He is going up the street, while the rest of us are going down it.

Wendy Harris is billed as the director of WiLd, but, with the greatest of respect to her and her talents, it is Warrington’s astonishing deft and persuasive performance that convinces us that we have here an awkward, adult boy, wondering why the people around him are as strange and as unpredictable as they are. In every department, the presentation is flawless, and it holds its audience firmly, informing us and giving us new perspectives, as well as allowing us the occasional chuckle. The tempo is pitch-perfect, and WiLd is that rare event – a genuine theatrical “must see”.

WiLd, on tour throughout Yorkshire, including the Holmfirth and Hebden Bridge Arts Festivals, and the York Theatre www.tutti-frutti