The Student
Review
Shook (New Celts Productions) — Review
by Callum Osment, 28/08/21

Venue: TheSpace Triplex – Jenner Theatre

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

New Celt’s Productions’ Shook is to be counted amongst that group of shows that is both harrowing and uplifting – leaving the audience feeling rather downtrodden about the state of our society and yet still coming away glad for having experienced such a story. Written by playwright Samuel Bailey in a stunning debut, and here directed by Rebecca Morgan, it is the story of three young offenders preparing for a life of fatherhood they may never get to experience, serving as a social commentary on the experiences of the working class. 

The narrative takes a while to find its bearings, taking a slow burn approach for us to warm to the characters, who initially come across as crass and rude, as teenagers often are. However, this runtime does mean that the latter portion’s provision of pay-offs for each of our characters feels earned given the amount of time we have spent getting to know the tragic backstories of our trio. The performance doesn’t make any sacrifices for the ears of its audience and is not afraid to confuse or offend. The use of broad Scots dialect may be a challenge for some, but this is a choice that pays off for the sake of immersion and accuracy. 

Begley’s Cain is a force of nature, dashing back and forth across the stage and flitting effortlessly across the full spectrum of human emotion, disappearing completely into his character. Dron plays off of Begley as the awkward, initially mute Jonjo, who opens up as he excels in his parenting class, made all the more into a tragic character as we learn the severity of his crime. Stoddart’s Ryan is secretly just as emotional as his peers and yet hides behind the mask of masculinity as so many do. While his performance is naturally assumed, Stoddart isn’t given as much opportunity to shine as his counterparts. Similarly, Morgan’s Grace is a nice foil for the boundless testosterone of her students, but her background is more hinted at than explored, and so it is hard to fully attach yourself to her character. 

Shook holds to ransom society’s notions of masculinity and the class system, highlighting how these young men are set up to fail and written off, often due to circumstances far beyond their control. Grace providing a father figure for our characters is a neat subversion of gender roles, and ties into the idea that we often need to become our own role models when those in power fail us. This performance doesn’t necessarily elevate the messaging of its source material as much as it replicates its strengths with commendable success, and all those involved should be proud of this achievement.

Dates: Aug 8-28 (13:10) 

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/shook

Images: Rachel Duncan