SUTCo is fast becoming an influential force on the Sheffield theatrical scene, by championing original pieces of theatre written by young adults and students, allowing for new voices and perspectives to be heard. This particular performance ‘Because I’m Not Perfect Yet’ follows Lany, a young carer looking after her mother, struggling to find freedom and fulfilment and Johnny an impoverished man longing to burst out of the mundane and oppressive life he leads. The show perfectly depicts imperfections, focusing on the mistakes made by young adults struggling to find themselves and their place in the world.
This new piece of writing by Ed Lee and Jack Goodison stands out from previous SUTCo shows with regards to its original ethereal, moving and often comic folk score written and directed by Goodison. This use of music was effective in communicating the plot, as well as perfectly encapsulating the modern fairytale-esque feel of the show. The music was charming and catchy, perfectly performed by the small but talented band and dulcet singer Iz Potter. The music beautifully combined with the ambient lighting designed by Jonathan Payne to create a whimsical and mystical jazz bar atmosphere within the theatre.
Another notable element of the performance was the use of physical theatre, which at times was smooth and slick, successfully communicating the emotions of the character through their bodies. Though its use was sometimes unnecessary and clunky, the repetitive robotic movements of Johnny and the factory workers poignantly conveyed the mundane and oppressive nature of working a manual labour job within the capitalist system. Moreover, Lany being lifted into the air by other actors within the first scene wonderfully conveyed her free and careless nature before tragedy befalls her family.
Polly Harley as Lany was an energetic manic-pixie dream girl with an undercurrent of sentimentality throughout. Her performance was particularly emotive in the first scene as she touchingly transitioned from a care free child, to a tragic young carer, hardened by grief, running from her trauma and responsibility. Aaron Saint John as Johnny showed impressive range conveying disillusionment and despair as well as depicting a devoted love sick puppy around Lany. Despite their individual strengths, I feel that the actors struggled to connect in their performances, so their romantic relationship fell somewhat flat, feeling like disparate performances rather than a successful depiction of love story.
The supporting actors Caitlin Johnstone, Ben Newman and Isaiah Mitchell commanded the stage in each of their scenes, with a perfect mixture of gravitas and comic timing all three were a strong backbone of the production, particularly Ben Newman as multirole was charming and funny with each different role he took on.
However, the plot and dialogue sometimes felt stilted and lacked purpose, therefore the script could do with some edits to tighten it up. Furthermore, I felt that some scenes needed more emphasis through direction; the instance of assault that lands Johnny in prison needed more weight behind it. This could be achieved through use of physical theatre, utilising a technique which had worked well previously, rather than the scene being swiftly glossed over due to the brevity of a stage punch, serving to make the plot clearer and add poignancy to the scene.
Overall, the musical score of the performance was truly outstanding and memorable, yet as the title suggests, as the main characters are not perfect yet neither is the show itself. Elements such as direction, script and acting need some improvement for the production to become more purposeful and well oiled. In saying this, SUTCo have a strong foundation upon which to improve the show, as the debut of this new piece of writing was enjoyable as well as very moving and poignant at times. I applaud SUTCo for creating a platform for original pieces by students and young people and I wait with anticipation to see more new and exciting writing next year.