Review: So Here We Are at HighTide Festival

So Here We Are by Luke Norris at HighTide Festival Aldeburgh. left to right: Katharine Williams

So Here We Are by Luke Norris at HighTide Festival Aldeburgh. left to right: Katharine Williams Kirsty / Jade Anouka Frankie / Daniel Kendrick Dan / Ciaran Owens Smudge / Dorian Jerome Simpson Pugh / Mark Weinman Pidge / Sam Melvin - Credit: ©Nobby Clark Photographer

For me, a play will always have some extra meaning when you can forge an early connection with the characters on stage. Within two minutes of So Here We Are getting underway it felt like I had known the players for years, much in the same way they knew each other.

Four twenty-somethings have gathered beside a quay after the death of a friend. They are all grieving in their own way, though the first thought for one is the devastating effect this tragic event will have on their five-a-side football team. They have all known each other since childhood but all had a slightly different relationship with their departed companion, Frankie.

Each of the four friends, Pugh, Pidge, Dan and Smudge, along with the late-Frankie’s girlfriend Kirsty, I could easily associate with people I have known in my own circles of friends: The brash Jack-the-lad, the absent-minded one trying to keep up with the others, the serious one who has started to drift away, the one trying to keep the peace while managing his own problems.

Throughout the tale of Frankie’s demise, split into after the funeral and before his death, the tension in these once strong friendships was clear. There was a sense of familiarity, tribal unity and loyalty to the group, but it had diminished from what it perhaps once was. As the blurb in the programme stated, “childhood friendships under strain in adult life.” It wasn’t overstated, just bubbling away under the surface ready to remind them the good old days were behind them.

The flow of the well written ensemble piece was smooth on the simple staging (shipping containers which opened out for the pre-death retrospective) and there was plenty of light and shade throughout – crucial when the subject matter could be so depressing and, indeed, distressing. The laughs, particularly in the first half of the show, were surprisingly plentiful; the ill-timed game of I Spy and Pugh’s contradictory views on smoking particularly enjoyable.

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Frankie’s death was kept deliberately vague: It involved a car crash, possibly involving drink and there were suggestions it was not an accident. But rather than the specific details or theories themselves it was the character’s reactions to them which made the show. Frankie’s appearance to provide some context in the second half gave only a little more insight into the circumstances of his death but more depth to the relationships he shared with his friends and partner – some very public, others less so.

There was no real conclusion but still a finality to the show. You knew how it would finish and the effect it would have. It felt to me like the beginning of the end for this group, the turning point in their lives which eventually could see them go their separate ways. Despite knowing little about Frankie it was clear he was the glue which held So Here We Are’s once tight-knit group together.

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Edmund Crosthwaite

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