The Acid Test

ZOE D’AVIGNON is blown away by the gritty realism of The Acid Test, which is sure to leave a lasting impression.

anya reiss Homerton lili thomas megan henson Rebecca Phillips the acid test

Homerton College Auditorium, 8pm, Thursday 16th-Saturday 18th May

acid test

Brutal, honest, reflexive hilarity from start to finish.

The Acid Test concerns the trials and tribulations of three twenty-something, freshly graduated, charmingly insane females. Feeling nostalgic for drunken nights so tragically long ago, the audience were all surreptitiously singing along as they were played in to Kendrick Lemar’s “Drank” – clearly exam term is in full swing.

Being seated all the way around the central stage gave the performance an extra edge; I could see fellow audience members’ reactions and hear the short inhalations of breath during especially raw moments.

The set reflected the overarching theme of that weird intermediary stage between adolescence and adulthood, with a juxtaposition of toys and cigarettes, Diet Coke and booze. The message seemed apparent: let’s face it, however much we like to think we’re adults, we still punctuate our sentences with “like” and “yeah”, swear gratuitously, smoke self-consciously and would secretly like to be playing with Lego.

The dialogue was an extraordinary rampage, which, though buoyant and cliché, threw a harsh light on the moments of private hysteria, melodrama and profanity-ridden angst which permeate young adulthood. It would have been easy for the characters to appear quite two-dimensional because of the pastiche quality of the play, but the characterisation was truly superb; each of the three female protagonists did a great job of portraying a sensitive juxtaposition between the childish sensationalisation of their emotional lives, and their character’s real tragedy revealed through self-reflection. The dialogue may have appeared frivolous as the three girls stomped about drinking vodka, chain-smoking and complaining about men (don’t we all), but there was a reality behind this hilarious pastiche.

The father of one of the girls comes to stay, having been kicked out by her mother. This intrusion of an adult introduced the voice of an aged outsider from whom the girls seek approval and advice. The slightly awkward sexual dynamic is reminiscent of American Beauty and subtly showed the girls flexing the muscles of their sexual power. I was relieved to see that the director had chosen to draft in an age-appropriate actor for this role – the girls played their youth so well that a skinny lout spouting ‘in my day’ would perhaps have ruined it.

I wasn’t wholly convinced by transition between scenes, which was marked by a slightly awkward dramatic lighting-based, interpretive dance vignette – this was perhaps unnecessary. Those green-lit intermissions felt like an attempt to show that the play had depth, depth that I felt the actors themselves portrayed; there was no need for pulsating arm waving under a green light filter.

Despite this small quibble, I was struck by the fluidity of the performance, rendering it one of the most relaxed and natural plays I have seen in Cambridge. Maybe this was made easy by the fact that the characters were so contemporary (I imagine it’s harder to play Juliet than Janice from Friends) but I was nonetheless impressed. With impeccable characterisation and inventive staging, The Acid Test is bound to make a lasting impression.