REVIEW: ‘His Name Is Zak’ – Apollo Youth Theatre

A thought provoking evening, unexpectedly humorous in parts and admiration for the talent on stage and off.  You’ll walk away with loads of questions; to a cliff-hanger and more importantly to yourself.  Youth drama has returned to the Island. Thank you, The Apollo Youth Theatre

The play is ultimately one of unconditional love, versus love with conditions. Heavy yeah?  Growing up and finding out who you are is hard enough for many teenagers, but for Zak, it was harder than most.

A play with themes of suicide, bullying and gender cannot be the easiest to deliver. Kudos here to writer, director and producer Mish Whitmore.  The story is what maintains your interest and curiosity.  The use of film and animation not only helps with the setting of time and place, but also helps to establish character and relationships.  And the actors make it all real through great ensemble work (the bullies and Liv’s friends), monologues, duologues and movement.

From the off we are presented with familiar Island beach-day memories that we can all resonate with.  This could be in any of our Facebook memoires or Insta-stories. We are all immediately reminded of our own Island life. The projected films work. Not only in concept, but also in technical quality.

As the lights rise, we are introduced to Zak alone on stage, sound and visuals of gently lapping waves setting the tone of the scene.  Contemplative.  Played by Ria Seager, Zak’s opening scene is about his search for hope.  Ria excels in the role, one full of anguish and suffering emotional conflict. Optimistically we wonder, will the story come full circle in the final act and ‘hope’ will conquer? 

Ria Seager as Zak Edwards

But on come the bullies.  You know that this is going to be a hard-hitting play.  The actors are convincing; clearly well-rehearsed and into their characters. Real and raw.  This is what one would remember as a familiar scene of playground bulling; circling, shouting, name calling, expletives, shoving, kicking and punching. Look around at the faces of the bullies; you will also spot guilt in there too.  Bullying no longer happens in the moment and in the immediate vicinity… it can be broadcast, live, and reviewed for ‘prosperity’.  Magnified.  Amplified. Replayed.

At this point, Zak in not physically alone in the world. At the heart of this play is the relationships Zak has with those around him and how they respond up to and after his desperate act. 

Zak’s parents, Elizabeth and Mark, are played by Traci Reader and Mark Duffus.  They play opposite each other, at each end of the unconditional/conditional love spectrum.  The film extracts showing Young Zak’s experiences (played by Lola Millmore) growing up with Mum versus growing up with Dad are perfectly contrasting vignettes.  Shout out to Jack Perry and Harry Spencer for film direction and editing; the quality of their craft is clear for all to see.  Traci and Mark deliver equally contrasting monologues on stage; causing an equally contrasting emotive response to this reviewer.  Do I really think that Mum is the baddie and Dad is the hero here?  Do I pity the Mum? (The quality of the writing and the acting doing its thing here!)

The two main friendships that Zak has also come into conflict, although, not necessarily with each other.  Immy Netherway delivers some great comic timing and delivery in the role of Liv. Her initial portrayal of loving and supportive girlfriend to Zak, the light in his darkest thoughts, doesn’t last long.  All of a sudden she acts as if she is the victim and finds comfort as the (flawed) alpha-female amongst her friends.  A character actress in the making?  The friends reluctantly delight in being pushed around and taken advantage of by Liv. I wasn’t expecting to find humour in the show, but the collective friend’s reactions to Liv’s remarks and Immy’s delivery of them, were well received by the audience.    

Immy Netherway (L) as Liv

The best friend, Dale, played by Harrison Hartup, is present on stage throughout the second half of the production.   (By the way, I don’t want to confuse you, there is no interval).  Throughout the scenes with Liv’s friends, and between Mum and Dad, you can see him react.  He is clearly going through his own turmoil.  Eventually, we are let into his anguish.  Harrison’s monologue is superbly delivered; well-paced, passionate, you can see his body shaking with emotion. Bravo.

Harrison Hartup as Dale

The play was originally created as a live film with interactive aspects on social media.  The transition to the stage works.  The use of animation (Karl Whitmore) was really effective.  Whilst there were a few pauses between technical transitions from stage and screen in one section, this was a great first night performance.  It is a shame that there is only one more performance remaining.  Please go along and see the final performance tonight.  Enjoy the evening.  I did.  Well written, emotionally engaging, some great acting, movement on stage, clever use of animation and film.  Enjoyment is allowed.  You can celebrate the work of the talented team at the Apollo Youth Theatre, and be entertained, and if you are willing and able, please do share your thoughts on the play. 


Get your tickets here


Zak Edwards – Ria Seager

Young Zak Edwards – Lola Millmore

Liv – Immy Netherway.

Dale – Harrison Hartu

Elizabeth Edwards – Traci Reader

Mark Edwards – Mark Duffus

LIV’S FRIENDS

Luna – Neve McINtosh

Ellie – Lily Blakely

Ava – Latia Charles

Ashley – Cheyenne Horne

BULLIES

Marcus – Luca Rayner

Bob – Harry Carlyle

Dave – Lucas Harding

Jessica – Afyia Guy

Erin – Cadence Whitaker

Layla – Kyra James

Renne – Lizzie Rockhill

Rachel – Isabella Herzverg

Darcy – Daisy Boo

CREATIVE TEAM

Written, Directed and Produced by – Mish Whitmore

Film Direction – Jack Perry

Film Editing – Harry Spencer

Chorography and Co-Producer – Nadine Lamplough

Art & Animation – Karl Whitmore

Original Music – Zak Whitmore

Creative Social Media – Eddie

Set – Paul Jenkins & the Apollo Team

Publicity – Abbi Leverton & Joe Plumb

Costume – Liz Santer

TECHNICAL TEAM

Camera Operation – Harry Spencer

Lights & Sound – Harry Spencer, Finne McCabe & Eddie

Stage Manager – Tyler Frankling

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