This brand-new play by student writer Sam Moore, directed by Rowan Wilson, exists within a small, bare space, and yet transcends it to resonate with the audience on many emotional levels. Every stage of teenage/young adult relationships from across both the heterosexual and LGBTQ+ spectrum is evoked through subtle and easy conversation between the three characters, as Sarah begins to admit her feelings for Sophie and Emma goes through a difficult break-up. The storyline is simple but evocative; for a 55-minute play, the range of relationship difficulties explored, turned into metaphors, and to some extent resolved, is certainly impressive. Not only are the characters relatable, however, but so is the content of even their more mundane conversations; there was a tangible ripple of recognition in the room as they discussed how they had originally thought Like A Virgin was just part of Moulin Rouge and hadn’t realised that it was in fact originally a very successful song by Madonna.
A few opening-night difficulties beset the production. Unfortunately, many prompts were required for all three actors, and scenes often came across in a very stilted fashion as a result. This created a somewhat bizarre atmosphere within the BT, as the audience seemed to be willing the actors on with every line and there was an odd sense of camaraderie through the room as they took a very short on-stage break and then continued the play with fewer issues. With any luck, these teething problems will be rapidly resolved, and the remaining performances will be unaffected, because when the actors really got going they were generally very good. The juxtaposition of Melanie Brooklyn’s anxious Sarah with Imogen Edwards-Lawrence’s lively and multifaceted Sophie was particularly sparky. It was refreshing to see a non-male-led cast, and hopefully as the run continues their confidence will improve, given that these are clearly talented actors who could be truly excellent with a little more time to learn all their lines.
For a play set exclusively in a teenage bedroom, lighting and set were necessarily very basic, but within the confines of the Burton Taylor this proved more of an asset to the production than anything else. The simple combination of pale white light and a bed/table set-up allowed the small audience to really focus on the words being said; at times, I even thought that Like A Virgin might work better – or at least equally well – as a radio play, given that the words and well-written natural dialogue were the star of the show.