Review: Angry Young Man, Adelaide Fringe Festival

Returning from the sell-out and award-winning success at the 2006 Adelaide Fringe, Ben Woolf’s comic and compelling play Angry Young Man finds its home once again at the Holden Street Theatre. Following the journey of Yuri, a young Eastern European man hoping to make his way to be a surgeon in London, Angry Young Man shines a light on the farcical ways in which immigration is not so much a problem, but a perspective blown out of proportion. Witty and dynamic, it’s easy to see why Woolf’s production has returned once again.

Featuring a cast of four, Woolf’s play is fluid in both written form and direction (also by Woolf) within the Holden Street Studio space. With only four chairs, the cast, much in the playful and skilful style of Complicite’s earlier work, use their bodies and physicality to portray Yuri’s story, each stepping in turn to play the lost European. It is wonderfully dynamic, with a slickness that seems to be missing from much of the work showing at the fringe. Whether this is due to the ensemble nature of the piece it is hard to tell, but you can’t help to be caught up within Yuri’s adventures.

With such slickness it would be easy to just comment on the physical playfulness of Woolf’s direction but there is plenty at work within the body of the text. With skinheads and liberals clashing, and the oppression of immigrants seeking asylum, Yuri’s plan to be a surgeon is stymied when those outside his world intervene. Patrick, a  liberal man desperate to show the world that he can help those oppressed by society, takes Yuri under his wing thinking he is a charity case. It all tumbles out of hand featuring a mob of skin heads, confessions of overpowering the British societal ways with cheap labour and wooing of women, and misunderstandings aplenty. It’s a fast-paced piece that requires some attention as the ensemble switch between their characters and scenery setting, but it is rewarding to those who do follow. Woolf comments at length on our societal view of immigration and ho,w no matter who they are, they’re here to take from us, when often this is far from the case.

In the performance I attended the audience laughed a lot at Woolf’s direction and the dexterous ensemble playing. Dressed in identical suits, you could easily mistake the cast for another boy band, but personalities emerge beneath the text and physicality, giving the cast a much greater appeal than the blandness they could easily fall into. Angry Young Man is, whilst a slightly dated comment upon immigration, a joyous and slick production that subverts the notion of immigration as a negative thing. You really shouldn’t miss this show, revival or not, it’s still a Fringe highlight.

Originally published on A Younger Theatre.