Sorry You’re Not a Winner – Bristol Old Vic review

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By Sophie Mayhew, Liberal Arts

As the audience take their seats in arguably Bristol Old Vic’s coolest performance space, the Weston studio reverberates with the D&B hit ‘Hold You’ by SHY FX. The three quarters ‘in the round’ theatre lends itself to immersive and intimate performances, and the audience were sat ready, eagerly anticipating this sold-out production.

This is the final tour date for Sorry You’re Not a Winner, written by Samuel Bailey, directed by the brilliant Jesse Jones and co-produced by Pains Plough and Theatre Royal Plymouth.

‘Liam and Fletch, grew up together. Born on the same street. Best mates since primary. Inseparable. The only difference was, while Fletch was getting suspended from school, Liam was studying. And now he’s going to Oxford. But with Liam gone, who’s going to keep Fletch out of trouble?’ – Bristol Old Vic

At its core, Sorry You’re Not A Winner is a play about male friendship, leaving home and struggling to navigate within a class system that tries to institutionalise and mould you to societal expectations. It’s a bittersweet story about existing in a world where you feel the need to change to become something or fit in, when in fact, doing so only isolates and alienates you to the extent that you feel you don’t belong anywhere.

A coming-of-age tale of two lads from Worcester and the paths they take, with Liam off to join the ‘posh f*ckers’ at Oxford University whilst Fletch is left with no GCSE grades to make a life at home. The themes however are universal. As the boys explore the pressures of feeling the need to assimilate, they question their sense of self and the relationships with those that mean the most. Particularly for Liam, the play’s narrative investigates how if ‘making it’ means leaving everything you know and love behind, is it worth it and what’s the point?

The play goes from strength to strength, as the incredibly talented cast move though a narrative and physicality that is laced with emotion and meaning, whilst developing their strong character nuances. Recorded sound clips, LED light strips, strobe and stage cigarettes fill the space, creating an overloaded sensory experience. Despite minimal staging, the presence of these wholly convincing young actors is entirely captivating, as they make audiences laugh, gasp and cry through this gripping story of social mobility.

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The two male leads Liam and Fletch spring from Lucy Sierra’s set in their opening scene of teen angst, and as the play concludes, two poised chairs sit opposite each other, as Fletch finds himself in prison, again.

A truly brilliant production, that is not to be missed.

Featured Image: Bristol Old Vic | Plains Plough | Theatre Royal Plymouth


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