By: Taliha Gazi
The life ethos amongst young people is to always embrace the present, to live through the lens of a camera, and the fame of a social networking site. It is a transformative period, with changes occurring, both psychological and emotional, at the same rate as the ebb and flow of a Facebook newsfeed, and where fitting in and finding an identity can often come into conflict. Contaminated serves as a cautionary tale for all young people tempted by the allure of illegal drugs to reconsider what really matters when the current culture of peer pressure, reputation and reward for risky behaviour is shamelessly exposed.
Emma Hallewell’s production is certainly praiseworthy, her focus being on the fragility of young people as they navigate the world via the experiences of drinking, drug consumption, and the consequent death of a friend from drugs contaminated by a lethal substance. In its dawning moments, the performance was raw, yet enticingly honest and uncertain, but by its culmination, the cast as a whole distinguished themselves as capable of not only acting, but vicariously living through their characters’ trials to produce a realistically powerful, evocative performance which matured with time. This effect was contributed to by the deeply complex attachments between characters, and the undulating steadiness existing between them. Love could be traced from hate, and hate from love. Yet, this emotional imbalance produced an aesthetic harmony of characters being interdependent on one another, and not seeking the individual glory of a standout performance. Such cohesion helped to affirm the tenuous relationship web which bound all the characters together, placing Luke, the tragic hero, at the epicentre of the play’s development.
What Contaminated deserves utmost credit for is its capacity to foment reflection, both amongst characters themselves, and members of the audience. Luke’s (Matthew Lansdell) unwaveringly ethereal presence in the play served as a counterpoint to the corporeal desires of his friends and family who, in seeking fun or success, only realise the error of their ways after his death. His love interest, Beth (Clare O’Sullivan), embodied an irresistible brazenness with a feminine vulnerability, defining her as one of the most relatable characters in the play.
Jessica (Iona Robson) functioned as the steady moral compass for her social circle, while acting in opposition to her boyfriend, Ethan (Sebastian Allum), the well meaning, but impressionable friend of Luke. Eric (Oli Savage) caricatured male self-assurance and a sense of rebellion to good effect, while Gloria (Mishia Leggett) and Bill (Rahul Srivastava), the parents of Luke, successfully portrayed how excessive ambition can sacrifice love and, in the process, cause the disintegration of a family. An exceptional depiction of the struggles, both professional and emotional, of police investigation came from Rosie Beech and Ellen White, who characterised the forgotten humanness operating behind law enforcement. Contaminated was, all in all, a memorable and hard-hitting production delivered with admirable gusto from all the performers involved.