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  • Gem Kirwan

Chance: A Review

Chance, a student production directed by Yolan Noszkay and Niamh Kelliher, follows Aaron, a Year 11 student from a Northern working-class community who has just been sent to a Pupil Referral Unit. The play, which was performed in The Vault at Paradise Green during the last week of the Fringe, highlights the difficulties faced by low-income families in recent years and the inadequacies of the systems in place to support them, with honesty, humour, and regular nods to the idiosyncrasies of small-town living. Although an ambitious range of social issues, including poverty, alcoholism, and mental illness, are tackled in the 60-minute production, Noszkay’s emotive script does not shy away from moments of humour and presents the audience with realistic characters who refuse to be defined by their struggles.

Chance’s minimalist set design— a table and three chairs which serve as a living room, classroom and hilltop in the countryside— does not take away from the immersive nature of the story, instead highlighting the cast’s powerful performances. In particular, Ben Whittle and Flo Booth give compelling performances as childhood friends Aaron and Eva, expertly navigating the audience. The whole cast should be commended for their emotive performances, in particular Ben Whittle as Aaron, who expertly navigate the audience through tense and vulnerable scenes as they discuss Aaron’s exclusion, his father’s alcoholism and his mother’s mental health crisis, to moments of humour. One emotive scene sees the pair on a hilltop, which serves both as an escape from their lives and a representation of class inequalities within their hometown, discussing these issues as the audience watches in contemplative silence, before resorting to a session of ‘shouting therapy’, much to the chagrin of a local farmer and the amusement of the audience.

Noszkay’s writing is boldly authentic and provides an astute commentary on the shortfalls of the education and social care systems. The scenes in the PRU, led by Beth Presswood as Miss, capture the difficulties of providing its students with an inspiring education (including poetry lesson’s centred around ‘Harry Maguire has a Massive Head) without the resources to accommodate their complex needs and home lives. Likewise, Ellie Mather instantly won the audience over with her performance as Mandy, Aaron’s eccentric and misguided social worker. The character’s dialogue showcases Noszkay’s talent for combining humour and social criticism, in her inability to get through to Aaron and suggestion that his father try cooking lasagne instead of drinking. Mandy regularly had the audience in stitches all the while embodying the shortfalls of an underfunded and poorly-equipped social care system— an especially impressive feat given that many of her lines are delivered through a mouthful of digestive biscuit. These scenes allow us to see the world through the eyes of Aaron and his peers, highlighting the adversity they must overcome with a startling lack of support without falling into stereotypes or defining the characters by the difficulties they come up against.

The play’s ending, performed with Northern soul music playing in the background, is hopeful but candid, embodying Noszkay’s aim to bring the real-life stories of people overlooked by society to the stage. Overall, Chance is a play that handles serious topics with tact and a refreshing authenticity. It shines a light on a broad range of social issues playing into stereotypes, and the entire cast and production team should be commended for their efforts in telling a story that is often lighthearted and always thought-provoking.

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