by Sarah Cope

A play about a 12-year-old girl turning 13, who is played by an 18-year-old, which is written by a 17-year-old (Anya Reiss) and which has a guidance note saying that it’s suitable for 14 years upwards, is always going to be an interesting prospect.

The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, always such an adaptable space, is presented as a two-level house, rather like an open-fronted dolls’ house.

The emotions that are acted out within that house, however, are all too human and recognisable.

Warring parents, played superbly by Sharon Small and Kevin Doyle, argue relentlessly, paying no heed to the fact that their 12-year-old daughter Delilah (Shannon Tarbet) is looking on – indeed, she sometimes ends up acting as a referee.

Add to this toxic mix a 21-year-old lodger Daniel (James McArdle) who has problems of his own, and self-mutilates in his room.

Whether it’s a response to the war zone in which she lives or simply adolescent hormones, Delilah kisses Daniel, completely unnoticed by the parents (who are just sitting – arguing – at the other end of the settee). A moment, perhaps, that requires a small amount of suspension of disbelief.

There then follows lots of brow-beating, as Daniel repeatedly rejects and then kisses Delilah, who threatens to tell her parents what has been happening.

The problem with the play is that the constant arguments of the parents are realistic, but hearing other people’s arguments is both painful and dull – a strange combination.

There are some great lines – the mother, in a rare calm moment, tells her daughter, “I was in such a rush to grow up – I never thought what I’d do when I got there.”

Some lines, though, are surplus to requirements – the father’s statement “This is such a dysfunctional family!” is a case in point. I could have also done without the repetition of the title within the script – ‘spur of the moment’ is used to describe both the father’s affair with his boss and Delilah’s advances on Daniel.

The title of the play, as well as being bland, doesn’t really fit – I was reminded of Margaret Atwood’s advice to young writers at a workshop I attended some years ago. Atwood simply said “titles are murder.” So perhaps Anya Reiss can be forgiven for not coming up with a great title for what is her first play.
The production continues until 21 August: More.