“Humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately extremely moving…
Brimming with rawness and verisimilitude, Yolan Noszkay’s “Chance” guides us through an array of social issues with ease, the heavier topics of poverty, alcoholism, and our flawed education system being tackled with both bold intimacy and witty humour.
‘Chance’ follows pupil Aaron (Ben Whittle) who is excluded from school and sent to Sunnyside Pupil Referral Unit (although, as Aaron dryly comments, there is nothing sunny about it). Blending humour and honesty, Noszkay’s writing switches between comedy and tension within seconds, keeping the audience captivated throughout. Whilst the plot focuses on Aaron, it is beautiful to see the intermingling stories of the other characters. It is a testament to Noszkay’s writing that every character feels like a whole person.
Under the excellent co-direction of Yolan Noszkay and Niamh Kelliher, the real draw of the play is the way in which it forces the audience to look beyond the surface, questioning hasty judgments formed about characters. Throughout the cast, the acting is extremely naturalistic and believable. Whilst we initially see Aaron as just a boy who has been excluded from school, we delve deep into his character as the play progresses to understand why he acts the way he does. The same goes for his father, expertly played by Archie Nolan; whilst initially seeming threatening and potentially violent, we discover more about him and sympathy grows. Each character is gradually unravelled and begins to be understood by the audience.
Ellie Mather, in the role of the social worker Mandy, initially provides much-needed comic relief as she breezes in with her digestive biscuits, blissfully unaware of the tension between Aaron and his father. However, as her scene continues, her presence instead becomes a reminder of the hollow and disconnected nature of institutionalised aid. Whilst her bubbly manner initially invokes laughs, her manner becomes hollow and thus a poignant comment upon the fundamental disconnect between the people who need help, and those who believe they are giving it.
Beth Presswood must also be commended for her portrayal of “Miss”, demonstrating maturity beyond her years in her role as the supportive teacher. Beautifully contrasting the character of Mandy, she is much more in tune with the pupils. Liam (Tom Corcoran) and Annabel (also played by Ellie Mather) both bring huge amounts of energy to the stage, and their interactions with her feel genuine. Despite not being as fully explored as other characters due to the short time frame, it is a credit to Noszkay’s writing that these pupils exist as well-developed three-dimensional characters, their hopes for the future particularly poignant.
Standout is the relationship between close friends Aaron and Eva (Flo Booth); the beautiful and comedic chemistry onset between them is utterly believable. Ultimately, it is the conversations between Aaron and Eva that remain the most memorable. As they sit up on the hill overlooking their hometown, we hear their sadness and dreams, their frustration and their hope, and both characters are played with real sensitivity and deep understanding.
Ultimately, “Chance” raises many questions. Humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately extremely moving, the play highlights the faults in our education system, which fails those who need it most, and leaves every single audience member questioning their own privileges. “Chance” questions the judgments we often make too fast about people, reminding us that there is always more to be seen. As funny as it is moving, and is a heartfelt piece of theatre that demands to be seen.
By Katie Procter
“Chance” will continue its Fringe Run from the 23rd to the 27th of August at 13:15 in V29 – Paradise in The Vault