Theatre review: Chapel Street, Traverse, Edinburgh

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IT’S Friday night in a town somewhere in the north of England, and Joe and Kirsty are both preparing to get smashed.

Chapel Street

Traverse, Edinburgh


Kirsty is shaving her legs in the bathroom of her friend’s house; Joe is drunk by five o’clock, on a staggering mix of beer, spirits, Red Bull and pro-plus.

It’s a familiar scenario, another in-yer-face drama about the underlying violence and despair of British urban life, for a generation without much hope. And the double monologue style chosen by playwright Luke Barnes is also pretty familiar, as – in a vivid 55 minutes – Joe and Kirsty reveal the short, sad, intertwined history behind their Friday-night bravado.

If Chapel Street is not ground-breaking in form or content, though, Bryony Shanahan’s production is a strikingly well-made example of this strand of British theatre, now touring alongside Charlotte Josephine’s Bitch Boxer, which was reviewed in Edinburgh last year. Luke Barnes’s writing is strong, fast, unafraid to let his characters express themselves in rapid, allusive street-language; Shanahan’s production is well-choreographed, with a fine alternation of noise and stillness. And Nicola Coughlan and Josh Mayes-Cooper are outstanding as Kirsty and Joe, two kids caught in a culture soused in cheap drink, in a street that once had a chapel in it, but now has nothing but pubs, clubs and gutters, full of kids so drunk that they can barely glimpse the stars.