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5 starsAt Theatre503, London, until 2 June (tickets and information)
Reviewed by Alice de Cent

High on the afterglow of a night of mayhem, Charlie, Wayne and Jake are hiding out at their childhood haunt – the less-than-prepossessing banks of the Thames – in the hope of evading the law, and the consequences of their actions. One by one, they divulge their dark secrets, leaving each of them a desperate man.

Greeted by a set formed of mud and detritus, the audience is primed for a visceral and challenging experience even before Richard Hammarton’s soundscape brings the action to an abrupt start. The play’s gritty design holds up to the scrutiny of Theatre503’s intimate setting, and each trace of mud the characters are stained with incriminates them still further. 

This intense three-hander is expertly acted by James Marchant as hard-man Charlie, Mike Noble as the unfortunate Wayne and Scott Hazell as Jake, who might just be about to lose the chance of achieving his dreams because of a night of madness. Will Wrightson’s direction fearlessly confronts the darkness within each character, but each is played with infectious warmth – a point which makes the tragedy all the more keenly-felt.

In the opening minutes I was a little wary of the script; some sections could certainly afford to be pared, but it quickly won me over. Vickie Donoghue’s debut is a force to be reckoned with, both chilling and funny, and creates three truly compelling characters.
Mudlarks is a stark look at the inevitability of tragedy, as the three teenage boys, trapped in an Essex backwater downstream of the capital, hurtle out of control towards their fate. This powerful play is well executed, and marks Donoghue as a writer to look out for.

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