Book Review: RED  

By Somalia Seaton
Published by Nick Hern Books

I was pleased when the Ink Pellet editor asked me to review Red by Somalia Seaton. The book is part of Nick Hern Book’s Platform series, plays specially commissioned by Lucy Kerbel from Tonic Theatre, a strong advocate for enhancing opportunities for young females in the theatre.

Six years ago, Lucy and Tonic published a report entitled Swimming in the Deep End, it showed not only the dearth of roles being written for girls but those roles that were available tended to be one-dimensional lacking complexity or vibrancy

Paul Roseby at the National Youth Theatre said to me in an interview for this magazine, that the only way to reverse this trend is to commission new, modern and forward-thinking female writers. Having Lucy at the helm of this project seems the perfect appointment.

In her introduction to the Platform series, published at the beginning of this book, Lucy outlines part of the brief given to writers: “Write a large-cast play specifically for performance by young actors, with mainly or entirely female casts and in which the female characters are no less complex or challenging than the male characters,” it said.

Somalia Seaton’s writing in Red ticks all those boxes; complex, topical and rich in emotion, the play centres on the staggering number of young people reported missing in the UK.  The approach goes beyond the individual who is absent and hones in on the person left behind. In this case Dee, a schoolgirl whose best friend Jay has gone missing and has been for some time. Deeply affected, Dee goes within herself, unwilling to communicate with others as she struggles to process the complex emotions swilling in her head.

Of course, reading a play is different to seeing it on-stage, yet Seaton’s writing fizzes off the page. Her characters are strong, complex and vibrant, her themes solid and resonant and she has delivered a foundation in which girls can finally flourish from.

This play is one of five in the series and I urge you to explore them all. When it comes to giving more opportunities for girls on-stage these books could provide the platform to get there.

Review by Mark Glover