WE’RE walking up the Royal Mile, my mate and I, when suddenly he has a thought.
He says he tuned into the last series of Skins, mostly, because he’s got a soft spot for actress Freya Mavor and, with Punk Rock starring her Skins co-star Will Merrick, and with Freya being an Edinburgh girl and all that... well, my pal’s thinking she might just be heading along to see the play too.
In your dreams, I say.
Merrick must have read his mind, though, for not only had he reserved us nice seats in the front row, he’d also placed us right next to you know who.
Cute though she is, neither of us were distracted by Freya for long – and that’s down to how utterly absorbing Simon Stephens’ play is.
Described as The History Boys meet Skins, this claustrophobic and intense tale of grammar school kids preparing for A-levels works on so many levels.
The action starts against the backdrop of the towering upper school library stacks. First we meet the fairly awkward William (Merrick) and then new-girl Lily (Serena Jenkins) is introduced. The pair have an instant rapport, and William thinks that he might be “in there” with his sexy, worldly wise new friend.
Unfortunately for him, he read the situation wrong and soon discovers that she’s already dating one of his circle, much to his annoyance.
The pair form part of a gang that comprises four boys and three girls – and these supporting characters are no less finely-drawn.
There’s Paddy Fleming as the schizoid bully Chadwick, Wesley Lineham as his nerdy nemesis Bennett, Joel Edward Banks as the handsome, hockey-playing Nicholas, the bookish Tanya, played by Philippa Brown, and Olivia Duffin’s brassy, unclassy Cissy.
At first it’s the usual high school hi-jinks we see, but the action steps up to a whole new level as pre-exam stress begins to boil over and something more sinister starts simmering.
To give away any more would spoil the fun for anyone who hasn’t seen the play – suffice to say, what starts off as some sort of adult version of Grange Hill ends up quite dark and twisted.
Merrick, who shot to fame playing farmer boy Alo Creevey in Skins, is outstanding in the lead role as we witness his character’s gradual change from silly schoolboy to angry, disturbed young man.
Overall, however, the entire cast excel in what is a chilling, superbly written piece of theatre.
Until August 27