Theatre Review: POP, Unity Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: Event Horizon Theatre Company

Format: Play
Genre: Comedy Drama
Date: April 11 2019
Location: Unity Theatre, Liverpool

POP tells the story of a friendship between two teenage girls, but one that is thrown a curveball by one unpleasant night, a night that changes not only their bond, but also the direction of their lives.

We actually meet Beth (Lauren Foster) and Abbi (Katie George) before the show starts, as they sit side-by-side monitoring the audience as they take their seats, which was amusing. Once it officially begins, it is a constant flow of action and dialogue between the two girls, clad in tracksuits and singing and dancing along to music true to the era (1995), while proclaiming their love for fashion as well as their dreams for the future and their “f—k the world” attitude. It comes from a humorous point of view and isn’t to be taken seriously, especially some of the pretty snazzy dance moves.

But then we’re taken to 2004. Beth and Abbi speak differently, dress differently, and act differently. While they’re suitably childish and immature as teenagers, at this point they’re speaking from a place of experience and with a greater perspective on their surroundings, even if they haven’t abandoned all of their traits from nine years earlier. We also recognise that, despite sharing the stage, they are clearly separate when speaking to us, the crowd.

We soon learn why. We flip between one night in 1995 and what soon becomes identifiable as therapy session recaps nine years down the line. In regards to the way-back-when evening, the girls attend a house party, and a boy is there who both happen to know named Craig (who we don’t see). That’s where the trouble starts, due to the suggestion of romantic feelings, the discord between the two when it appears that Craig is getting too close to Beth, and the consequences when Beth leaves Abbi at the party, with the latter seemingly hopping into bed with Craig.

But the fall-out of what we learn was not consensual sex includes the friendship collapsing and the two going on to have separate lives. Yet they are never the same, and Abbi in particular is traumatised by what happened and how Beth reacted, despite how she had treated her best friend beforehand. The question for us to ponder then becomes whether the two can move on and achieve full happiness, or if they need to be with one another to truly move on.

The acting is very good and believable, as well as being authentic to both the eras covered and the personalities of typical teenagers sharing such traits and future aspirations. Both Lauren Foster and Katie George pull off their roles extremely well, and their tales have you wanting to believe and discredit both at various points. It’s easy to imagine being in such a dilemma that snaps a friendship so easily, and so this show will resonate most with anyone who has been through such an experience, even if the justification is less tragic than that covered in this show.

The tone shifts between light comedy and true, raw emotion, and given the intimate setting of the Unity Theatre and being so close to the stage, this only adds to the drama. The lighting was pretty cool (with POP lit up in LED colours), and the occasional use of props added to the story, along with music choices that helped to tug at the heartstrings. At 60 minutes, the running time is just right, covering everything that you would want from a story perspective. The only downside for me was how certain attendees reacted too well, almost as if they were a part of the show themselves, which didn’t help and occasionally detracted from my enjoyment.

Nevertheless, overall POP was a very captivating and thought-provoking production that I would definitely recommend. You can still catch it at Unity Theatre during its second performance tomorrow night.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good