“Scarborough” at the Courtyard Theatre

A schoolteacher and a pupil in a hotel room for a dirty weekend: that is the simple scenario for Fiona Evans’ play. As well as getting extra marks for addressing a depressingly topical subject, Evans’ writing can be praised for an intelligent handling of the subject. And it has a nice twist – after we see a female teacher with a schoolboy, the roles are reversed and we see a young girl as the victim.

Despite the play’s brevity, the characters are complex and we don’t automatically see these children as victims – occasionally they seem more mature than the adults taking advantage of them. There could be more tension; that the teachers are putting their “life on the line” isn’t the focus – sex is, and the intimacy is creepily convincing. With the script repeated almost exactly, it’s a great game of spot the difference: which brings one hesitation – steering so clear of sensationalism is an achievement, but you don’t feel as uncomfortable with this topic as is really appropriate.

While the premise might seem just too neat a trick, there’s no doubt Scarborough is an effective showcase for the talents of young company Fictive Theatre. Taking to the stage are Charlie Tantam and Ava Pickett, superb as they change characters after the interval. They make the repetition riveting. And I have to praise their professionalism at working through a klaxon-like ringtone during the show – they didn’t skip a beat while I thought we were under attack. Pickett’s transformation is the most noticeable: from harassed PE teacher into precocious schoolgirl, and she adds an unsettling injection of humour. Director Simon Paris deals with staging the show in the round impeccably and there are some brave pauses that show a real confidence in the material. It’s great to have a new team to watch out for.

8 & 9 October 2015


Photo by Greg Goodale