New Wolsey Young company tackles tale of death and revenge

“This is our 11th production in the three years we’ve been running and we’ve not done a show yet where someone hasn’t died,” says The New Wolsey Young Company’s Rob Salmon.

They are staging Tanya Ronder’s adaptation of DBC Pierre’s bestselling novel Vernon God Little.

A dark satire, it follows 15-year-old Vernon whose friend massacres 16 of their classmates before turning the gun on himself. The townsfolk want revenge and, pursued by the police, neighbours and the media, Vernon soon realises where there’s a story to be told the truth doesn’t matter.

It’s scarily relevant timing. Days before our chat, several people were shot dead at a small Christian university in California by a former student.

“I read the book not long after it came out, when Columbine was still fresh in everyone’s minds. When I found out there was a play I read that, then there was another shooting around that time. Went to see it at the Young Vic last year and a kid shot a couple of people in schools then. I think in a gun culture it [the work] is always going to be relevant sadly.”

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Packed with colourful characters, a killer soundtrack, some violence, the occasional flash of nudity [the lead character ends up in just his pants a lot], and very bad language; while used to dark themes it’s the hardest piece the company has tackled so far.

The chief challenge, the 20 or so songs which sees all of the 14-strong cast of 16 to 21-year-olds singing or joining the band at some point.

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With past shows including a selective mute self-harmer who stabs his mum’s boyfriend, a play set in a psychiatric clinic with heads cut off and the botched assassination of a child, wouldn’t they like to do something frothy?

“I have quite a dark taste in theatre, I like shows with a high dramatic content to them, so I tend to kind of verge towards that kind of work. Even I’m going ‘ooh, can’t we do something nice’,” laughs Rob.

“This is a very funny show; this is a comedy, a biting satire of this tragic circumstance.”

There’s also fair bit of the f-word and a little bit of the c-word in the show; hence the 14s and over audience rating. It all sits in context and isn’t particularly gratuitous, he assures me before adding: “If you’re easily offended the show will offend you.”

Future Young Company shows include Rise and Shine and the Dario Fo play Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay; all about tough times and banks bonuses.

“We’re having a very relevant year I think,” smiles Rob.

Vernon God Little runs from April 17-21 at The New Wolsey Studio, St George’s Street, Ipswich. Read the review online later this week.

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