Speech and Debate at Trafalgar Studios is a refreshing and eccentric take on the narrative trope of a group of mismatched teenagers bonding. The storyline may sound implausible, but hear me out: the three high school students around whom this story centres are planning to expose their teacher as a sexual predator. The only way they can do this is by reforming an unpopular school club, the speech and debate team.
The cast are stellar. Patsy Ferran, a talented RADA graduate with a face you can’t stop watching, is excellent as Diwata, an unsuccessful actress keen to get the speech and debate team going as an outlet for her need to perform. Douglas Booth (LOL, The Riot Club) as Howie is, to begin with, sceptical about the whole endeavour (and I was a little sceptical about his lack of energy), but he quickly becomes the charming, funny (and ridiculously handsome) presence I had hoped for. Tony Revolori (who played, I realised too late, The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Zero) shines as a budding student reporter Solomon, a bundle of nerves and ambition with a secret.
Speech and debate lingo runs throughout the show, tying the sometimes unevenly flowing scenes together. We get moments of elation, confusion, sweetness, embarrassment, shock, pity.. but overall it’s just very funny. The hilarity culminates in a musical number (taken from Diwata’s Arthur Miller-inspired musical Crucible) which breaks every convention has everyone cringing and guffawing at the same time.
I thoroughly enjoyed this play. From the oddball writing and the brilliance of the performances to the clever use of technology and the frustratingly ambiguous ending, it was an altogether good (and pleasingly not over-long) night out.
Speech and Debate is playing at the Trafalgar Studios until 1 April 2017. For more information and tickets, click here.