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Revealing insights into world of a teenager on the margins

THE TITLE of this simple piece of storytelling by Matthew Morrison, performed by two socially distanced actors online, may at first seem misleading.

For this is not a visual display of choreography and movement but, instead, an intimate heart-to-heart with two beautifully drawn characters, Kemi and her dad Richard.

Kemi, who attends a London secondary school, inhabits a place of staggering loneliness, coloured only by the terrible bullying power of social media and the brutal herd mentality of schoolgirl enemies.

Though Kemi’s circumstances are particular — parents separated and struggling with their own survival, a life devoid of luxury and hope and a solitary existence in a cheerless bedroom — her tale could be that of so many teenagers. It is a shocking indictment of our society that, in these years of plenty for the haves, the have-nots live lives of such quiet, relentless desperation.

Co-produced by Soho Poly and Brickdust, this is an upbeat story, told with refreshing verve and purpose and Shonagh Marie as Kemi warms the heart with her cheerful delivery and transparent sweetness.

You know this is a girl who, if given even a modicum of opportunity and the helping hand of chance, could rise to greater things. As it is, she does what all do who are devoid of hope and grabs at anything that grounds her in the present and blocks out the rest.

Dad Richard, embodied in all his deep disappointment by an assured Tim Treloar, loves Kemi and to lighten her darkness treats her to a teen-idol concert at the O2, where she can dance and forget — or can she?

“Hold the line and take the flak,” is Richard’s motto and he counsels his daughter with wise words from the powers-that-be vis-a-vis bullying: “Respond; don’t retaliate.”

The story hinges on the events that make him turn this mantra on its head, until: “Don’t respond, retaliate!” is his cry. Retaliation when it comes is a blow-out like the O2 concert — another form of dance, another chance to forget, another passing ecstasy. When life is hopeless, immersion in the moment is a saviour.

Directed with beautiful sensitivity by Charlotte Peters, this play feels spontaneous and heartfelt. And it’s a cracking good yarn.

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