Vinay Patel’s new Sticks and Stones, explores the consequences of a joke that causes offence.
The new play, which is one of three new plays touring with Paines Plough’s pop-up theatre, Roundabout, takes the idea that a single word used freely and thoughtlessly in a joke, could ruin a career when one takes offence.
The pressure to be sensitive to race, religion and sexuality is greater than ever within society today. Patel tackles this controversial topic in this new ‘razor sharp’ play.
Senior Executive ‘B’ played by Katherine Pearce, makes an offensive joke, in attempt to seal the deal in a client meeting, and gain her promotion, but ‘A’ -played by Jack Wilkinson – expresses that the ‘word’ used has caused him some offence. ‘A’ seems to benefit from her failure and it all appears to be a strategic to obtain Pearce’s promotion.
The protagonist, is represented as a single mother, with good values who advises her daughter that women should not just be praised because they’re ‘pretty’, but when ‘B’ finds her career facing a downwards spiral after the ‘word’ is reported, an apology is all she is asked for. But her pride stops her from doing so, leaving her questioning her capabilities as a mother.
Katherine Pearce plays the lead role excellently, shifting between being a confident businesswoman to confused ball of dismay. Support from the strong cast of, Charlotte O’Leary and Jack Wilkinson, sees them playing a variety of roles and seamlessly switching between characters to represent the different sides of the argument.
Stef O’Driscoll’s production is cleverly put together, with the help of choreographers, Jennifer Jackson and Simon Carroll-Jones, transitioning and interlinking scenes with funky dances moves and bright lights. The momentum doesn’t have the chance to die and runs throughout the theatre space. The offensive word that triggers her downfall is never revealed but instead key words within the play like the word ‘word’ and ‘offence’ are accompanied with colour changes and prominent warning sounds.
Patel’s play Sticks and Stones, causes the audience to stop and think. Although its not one that’s going to change the world as of yet, it highlights the pressure to be sensitive in today’s world.
Sticks and Stones was reviewed on 13 October 2018 as part of Roundabout at Longton Park, Stoke-on-Trent.