Review: Clutch at Bush Theatre, London

Wednesday 21st September 2022 at Bush Theatre, London.


Reviewer: Maygan Forbes

When Tyler (played by Charlie Kafflyn) takes up driving lessons for the first time with trusty instructor Max (played by Geoffrey Aymer), not only do his lessons cover the rules of the road, but lessons in life and our duty of responsibility become major talking points in the play. Written by the brilliant Will Jackson and directed by Philip J Morris, Clutch brings together two different generations both experiencing a transformative adventure on the streets of Birmingham.

When I first heard about the concept of this play, excited doesn’t even come close to how I felt. As somebody who failed their driving test 4 times and had numerous instructors, learning how to drive was an extreme sport for me. A lot of lessons I learnt unwillingly whilst trying to navigate country roads and how not to do a three point turn in the middle of a busy high street. Fair to say, I just knew I would relate to Clutch.

It hadn’t even crossed my mind that a play about the first journey we all take in learning how to drive is such an important coming of age moment and really sets the tone for how we move forward in our driving experience. Clutch encapsulates this experience and in the hour, it feels like a road trip we are taking – the audience as the passengers, Kafflyn as our unsuspecting, slightly nervous, forever stalling driver, and Aymer as our distracted, chain puffing, foul mouthed but friendly teacher.

The stage set up is revolutionary. With concept by Georgia Wilmot, there is literally a car carcass with the peddles and wheel on stage. Tyler and Max take turns alternating with who is in the driver’s seat based on where the plot is heading in the scene and it makes for such a dynamic viewing experience. The script is absolutely hilarious and witty so hearing those funny quips whilst the actors take turns zooming down the road in the makeshift car, just serves to enhance the viewing experience. Such a clever use of the stage in the short performance time.

There were a few scenes that didn’t seem to add much depth to the overall context and narrative of the play. Tyler is shown with his exciting dating and party life, living the bachelor lifestyle whilst Max is shown alone and freshly separated from his partners. I guess the premise is that the two are trying to fill some type of void with driving, from one extreme to another. However, it felt slightly disjointed and maybe with the right amount of tweaking can be reworked to flow more seamlessly. I think it would have also been beneficial to have more context on Max’s backstory with his previous driving students.

At the beginning he brags to Tyler about his superb pass rate and clearly takes pride in being able to maintain this with his unconventional teaching style, however there is a big event that happens in the middle of the play that throws him off kilter and tarnishes his name in the driving community. But surely such a seasoned professional instructor would be able to navigate these extremities? That part of the story felt just a tad bit contrived, especially given Max’s previously stellar track record.

But regardless of that small gripe, this is an absolutely delightful play. A real feel good happy vibes atmosphere radiates at the end and it’s certainly an emotional moment. I have had a great deal of personal awakenings on the road and with all that time to think about who I am and where I am going in life, Tyler and Max’s journey together is nothing short of heartwarming and gorgeous. Jackson is a talented writer and I’m excited to see their next projects in the spotlight.

Clutch plays Bush Theatre until October 8th 2022 – you can find more information and tickets here.

Images: Ali Wright

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