Nottingham New Theatre’s latest comedy We’re Here for Laura, a comedy about four horrible friends, written by Luwa Adebanjo and Kellyn Morrissey, and directed by Florence Avis, was a surprisingly light-hearted, entertaining exploration into the human inability to change.
“It seemed like a caricature-esque Breakfast Club, a conclusion which proved itself correct by the end of the night”
I entered into this production with only the knowledge provided by the screaming blue and yellow poster, adorned with a pink feather boa; large arrows label the four seemingly incompatible figures as a ‘deluded actor’, a ‘D -list celeb’, ‘Carol from finance’ and a ‘Buddhist Ninja?’. It seemed like a caricature-esque Breakfast Club, a conclusion which proved itself correct by the end of the night. The play, as the poster will have you believe, centers around four friends from sixth-form who meet up after the death of their heiress friend Laura. Styled around a shallow talk-show, hosted by our ‘D-list celeb’ Mittons (played by the wonderfully energetic Beth White), the play leads on to comically explore how each character has their own issues hidden behind their stereotypical stock figure.
“It’s a nice feeling to be a part of the play in a non-audience-participation way, and you instantly feel much closer to the characters because of it”
It was something of an experience from start to finish, breaking the fourth wall from the get-go. Standing in the foyer pre-performance, one is met by tables doused in glitter and pictures of a highly made-up Mittons. As you look around, you notice that some audience members are holding home-made signs calling out in bright pink pen “We love you Mittons” – a character we have yet to be introduced to (helping to assert her role as a D-list celeb). Suddenly, a troop of four incongruously dressed actors enter the foyer accompanied by an “interviewer”. It still sends my head spinning to think these actors are acting being actors fake crying (try saying that ten times). Once the hustle and bustle is over, you are seated in the theatre, as if you were watching a “live recording” of the reality show. It’s a nice feeling to be a part of the play in a non-audience-participation way, and you instantly feel much closer to the characters because of it.
“Even the little touches, such as a poorly written “live, laugh, love poster” and vain photos of our host taped to the walls added to the comedic value”
The set is elaborate (kudos to Zoe Smith), with pink walls, glitter (of course), a full dining table, cushy sofas even a window seat- if you imagine any form of reality show set in a house, you wouldn’t be far off the mark for this set. Even the little touches, such as a poorly written “live, laugh, love poster” and vain photos of our host taped to the walls added to the comedic value. It brought life to the set as it plays with stereotypes in a believable way. The costumes matched the set in their muted outrageousness and fun, with a startlingly red velvet jumpsuit and gold heels for Mittons and some sparkling heeled boots for the fabulous, constantly showy Paul, our ‘Deluded Actor’ (played by the fantastically flamboyant Charlie Basely). The costume was clearly considered carefully, emphasizing the key stereotypes for each character- it was very much a play of stark visuals, with lots of movement and sometimes outrageous gestures (if you ask an audience member about a beard, I am sure they will show you…).
“His childlike nature served as a peace-keeper to the friction of the characters and his final monologue (written by the actor himself) had many in tears”
After our two “stars” had entered the set, we gain the presence of ‘Carol from Finance’ (played by the wonderfully restrained Helen Brown) in her work attire, clutching a laptop and talking in a slow, monotonous drawl which provided an already amusing contrast to the energy of Paul and Mittons. Indeed, the two women clashed on several occasions with Carol’s bluntness juxtaposing Mittons’ delusional shallowness- such clashes were accompanied by the music of a wild-west standoff. The final entrance was from our ‘Buddhist Ninja?’ Alex (played by the highly engaging Eric Crouch) , who entered, hooded, in an amusing mix of childish gymnastics and a sort-of mushroom-rolling around on stage. Alex represented the stereotype of one who constantly took up new hobbies, the likes of which we learn involved pole dancing, medieval knights and even arson. His childlike nature served as a peace-keeper to the friction of the characters and his final monologue (written by the actor himself) had many in tears.
The play started with a focus on the use of Laura’s death to gain what little clutches of fame the characters could grasp. We gained backstories (Carol certainly did not start out in finance), were invited into gossip, gained a “taster” of Paul’s self-centred musical (Paul 7, the road to Paul) and witnessed some heated arguments. The climax came in the realisation by each character that they are in fact all a little messy, accompanied by Carol’s dry analysis of each person’s flaw.
“The play ends with each character acknowledging that they are attention seekers, they are vain and proud and liars and inconsistent and restricted”
We’re Here for Laura made everyone laugh on regular occasions, with witty one-liners, some extravagant self-indulgent singing, a theatrical self-awareness (on one occasion Paul referenced having to go back to student theatre), and a comforting reliance on stereotypes (yet it did not feel overdone or seen before) but it also made you think. The play ends with each character acknowledging that they are attention seekers, they are vain and proud and liars and inconsistent and restricted- hence my earlier reference to The Breakfast Club. Standing on the leather dining room chairs the four friends promise they will change. And then. From behind the audience somebody yells “CUT!” and you realize it was all an act for the implied cameras, they will not change, they are forever these confined stereotypes. Whilst it had me giggling it also had me thinking it was a true comedic acheivement.
It seems all involved in We’re Here for Laura had a large amount of fun, which came across in their performance. Whilst stereotypes where adhered to, it was not overly stereotype-driven. As a 55-minute show, it was a bite-size package of humour, energy and discovery. As an audience member, one felt included and absorbed in the shallow world of minor showbiz. Congratulations to all on an enjoyable and light-hearted performance, this was exactly what I needed after a long term.
Images courtesy of Phoebe Raine