Sunday 20th August 2017 at Etcetera Theatre, London.
Splinter, a new play written, directed and produced by Louise Fitzgerald, presents seven teenage characters held in a void which is apparently under the control of a mysterious voice. That warped voice pressures the characters to make decisions, using riddled language to push them to the limit while they try with all their might to figure out how to free themselves before something (presumably terrible) will happen. Aimed at ages 10+, Splinter certainly feels like recognisable teen fiction with the classic themes of identity and relationships at the very heart of the piece, but unfortunately, it feels all too familiar.
The cast can’t be faulted; each actor brings to life Fitgerald’s various characters stuck within this sci-fi situation with great conviction. Stand-outs are the unshakeably intense, rage-filled Bridie Sheppard, playing Blunt, Lucy Bell and her personification of nervous energy as Flit and Oliver Bower’s comical characterisation of the incorrigible Pup. Madeline Dittritch brings great warmth to the stage as softly spoken, good-hearted Faith, while Bear’s periodic explosions of frustration are impressively effective. Adam Sharp’s portrayal of Logic is endearing with a slightly comical edge and the self-assured but flawed Steady is brought to life by Joe Douglass. The cast have great chemistry and they are all engaging to watch; they successfully bring credible tension to this short piece with plenty of energy and strong performances and I hope to see whatever this talented bunch get up to next.
The characters definitely do feel two dimensional, with each staying within the lines of the assigned characteristics of their given nick-name – this is revealed to be intentional at the close of the play, but that revelation feels clunky and too simply revealed after such a well played, tense build-up. The problem for me is that the premise is too close to too many other stories; characters wake up in a strange place, with no memory of how they got there or who they are, they need to escape etc etc. It felt to me like a cross-over between James Dashner’s The Maze Runner and 100 by Neil Monaghan, Diene Petterle and Christopher Heimann. The story differs slightly, making the leap to include topical themes of power and mental health, but it falls short in making those themes really resonate.
Splinter would certainly engage and entertain a young audience, particularly those who enjoy sci-fi/ adventure cross-overs and the cast are definitely worth seeing. This is a good, well performed piece of theatre, but the plot itself needs to make more of the revelations in the latter scenes to give this play a suitably dramatic finish and a notably fresh take on an increasingly common set-up.