This Is What Teen Spirit Smells Like: Dry Land Review

Dry Land at Jermyn Street Theatre ★★★★☆

By Londonist Last edited 37 months ago
This Is What Teen Spirit Smells Like: Dry Land Review Dry Land at Jermyn Street Theatre 4
Photo by Richard Davenport.

Amy (Milly Thomas) is pregnant. Underage, powerless and panicked, the “thing” in her stomach brings out sensitivities that aren’t compatible with the blow-job giving, vodka-swilling, devil-may-care swagger she wears to school and likes to think of as her entire persona. To avoid sullying her street cred any more than is necessary, Amy enlists the help of Ester (Aisha Fabienne Ross), a nervy championship swimmer from the social sidelines, as her aide in terminating her pregnancy.

Both girls seek something outside of the high-school niches into which they are burrowed. In Damsel Productions’ Dry Land, the first ever UK rendition of Ruby Rae Spiegel’s play, Thomas and Ross bring staggering emotional alertness to the episodic unfurling of an unlikely friendship which has the space to breathe in this one-in-a-million context: that of attempting an after-school, DIY abortion.

Although teenage pregnancy glints menacingly behind even the most light-hearted of Amy and Ester’s exchanges, Spiegel’s drama is as much about identity — about groping for selfhood in a maze of labels — as it is about abortion. Every interaction in Hannah Hauer-King’s production is gloriously complex, brimming with myriad unsaid connotations that quiver in the air.

All direction has evidently been collectively felt-through, rather than merely thought-through: right down to the trembling poise with which Ester crumbles — and barely ingests — her Sun Chips. Not to mention the defensive way that Victor (Dan Cohen) repositions his beanie when she initially rejects his advances; it’s clearly part of the 21st century chainmail he uses to buttress his searching, Neutral Milk Hotel-listening soul whilst surrounded by phalanxes of popular jocks.

The visits from Reba (doses of poker-faced hilariousness delivered by Charlotte Hamblin) are a particular joy. Ignorant of Amy’s secret and untrammelled by Ester’s insecurities, Reba appears almost criminally comfortable in her own skin. This production’s unique brand of teen spirit smells like chlorine, friendship and illicit vodka: powerful and engaging stuff.

By Rosalind Stone

Dry Land is on at Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street SW1Y 6ST until 21 November. Tickets £22/£18. Not recommended for under 12s. Londonist saw this performance on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 09 November 2015