Lately, Lion and Unicorn

Rating: 4 out of 5.

God teenagers. Don’t you just want to shake them sometimes. Scream at them that their lives are a marathon, not a sprint; to stop being in such a bloody hurry; that honestly, the thing they are desperate to escape from might well be the thing they spend the rest of their lives trying to get back to.

Alf (Lauren Ferdinand*) and Callum (Matt Wake*) meet in school. He’s the slightly awkward new boy and she’s the well established cool girl. Despite their differences there is an immediate spark.

It is a spark that never quite turns into a flame. In their deeply teenage way, they have sex, but shy away from sharing emotions. Callum is too damaged, and is hiding too much of his abusive home life. Lauren is made up of thousands of sharp edges, developed in a stilted and broken family.

Lately is all about escape. Whether it’s Alf’s desperation to leave the decaying coastal town in which she lives or Callum’s escape into the obliteration of a bottle of vodka, the need to not be who or where we are runs through this sea soaked piece.

Both have plenty to escape from. Though it is Callum more than Alf who is in immediate physical danger, she is the one who dreams of getting out of town. She is also the one who takes the chance when it is offered. She gets away, though is drawn inexorably back. Alf can dance under the stars of Koh Samui, but she’s still Alf – and that she can’t escape.

There is a real understanding throughout lately of that teenage desire to be someone else. To escape what you currently are – and the repressiveness of being penniless and subject to the whims of your elders – but also to escape the fate you fear awaits you when you do grow up. The tension between the desperate desire to be an adult and the fear of what growing up means is well represented in Callum and Alf – in his stasis and inability to move forward as much as in her desire to run.

If I have a question about the show, it is about the choice to make the drama circular, thus revealing the ending at the beginning. It is becomes ever more clear, throughout the rest of the show where we are heading, but it might have been more satisfying, shocking and moving to audiences to let them get there themselves as the drama unfolded. However, this is a very minor bugbear with a show that already packs a great deal of emotional intensity into its hour long run.

Lately is an engaging drama about two frustrating, infuriating, sweet and loveable (if only they knew it) people. So teens really. In the writing, James Lewis captures that element of teenagehood perfectly. It’s a tough show full of tough themes, but it has a heart as big as the moon over Thailand.

*As part of Proforca’s ongoing commitment to the development of young talent, there is a revolving cast so on any might you might see Ferdinand and Wake or Gabrielle Nellis-Pain and Fred Wardale.

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