Review: Tusk Tusk

Childhood and adulthood are blurred in this gripping adaptation of Stenham’s work

Pain, anger, loss. These are not words we would usually correlate to childhood, but Tusk Tusk redefines what it means to be a child or even, what it means to be an adult. In this intense play about the lives of three children coping with the absence of their mother, growing up has never seemed more difficult, with Eliot (Jake Leigh) forced to become an adult in the blink of an eye.

Image credits: Paul Ashley

One of Tusk Tusk’s strengths is that it encapsulates the light-hearted and upbeat moments of childhood against the backdrop of a grimmer and darker plotline. It makes the play even more tragic, seeing such naive and playful children having to grow up so fast. Finn’s (Mia Urwin) ecstatic youthful energy, especially in the scene where they scavenge for chocolate, is undoubtedly a capsule to the naivety faced within childhood, the blissfully sweet innocence of life.

Behind this darkness, Shennan’s play is a triumph in presenting the strength and longevity within familial relationships. A riveting performance by Arabella Alhaddad (Maggie) shows her character feeling as if she must hide her mother’s secrets and mental illness from her brother, highlighting that despite all adversity and conflict within brother and sister relationships, they always look out for one another. A touching sentiment that was excellently executed.

Image credits: Paul Ashley

Further, Tusk Tusk deals with extremely heavy and disturbing topics in a complex and compelling way. Eliot’s exploration into sexual relationships at 16 years old gives the audience a heavy heart to watch, but Leigh delivered a standout role balancing the immature aspects of Eliot with his position as a nurturing father figure for Finn despite his own youth.

A moment that holds great poignancy is a scene where emotions have climaxed and intensified to a point of no return, where gasps (even my own) were heard across the auditorium at this moment due to the deeply emotional atmosphere created by the Shennan’s direction. With my heart in my throat, the action pressed on. Tusk Tusk is an emotional maze, filled with many surprises and gut-wrenching moments that you will not see coming.

Image credits: Paul Ashley

As the plot thickens, each character goes through a transformative stage of growth, facing some of the most extreme tests and situations, while they are just children.  Tusk Tusk acts as a commentary on not only the dangers of child neglect but the harsh realities of human survival in which individual sacrifices must be made.

Audiences may be left with tears of joy or sadness with its ending open to many interpretations. But one that will be a universal and poignant moment in audiences’ heads is the feeling of hope – the hope for humanity.



Tusk Tusk is showing at Robinson College Auditorium from 3rd November to 5th November at 7:30 pm. Get your tickets here.

Feature image credits: Erin Tan

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