The show must go on, and as the world learned of the passing of Her Majesty the Queen, an enduring and reassuring constant in all our lives, a subdued audience took their seats for the press night of Flashbang, a new play from James Lewis, directed by David Brady and premiering at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre.
We meet Ryan, one of four friends who tells us that they’ve had a normal life, growing up in an equally normal town, where nothing very much ever happens. As Ryan (Sam Kacher), Jason (Emmanuel Olusanya), Andy (Henry Brackenridge) and Deano (Fred Wardale) stand before us, their childhood photos are displayed on the wall behind them, and the fact that there’s five photos, but only four people physically present, gives us a clue about what’s to follow.
The flashbang – the moment that changed their lives – involves that fifth friend, Mikey, but that comes later in Lewis’s remarkably heart-felt play. First, we learn how the boys grew up together, the highs and lows they shared, and the way their families all melded into one, as is so often the case with childhood friends.
This is Ryan’s story, but it is after all a story shared with his ‘squad’. As each of these young men speak, they are speaking for Ryan, but the experience is just as real for them. Ryan might not have any brothers related by blood, but he’s part of a brotherhood, and that’s what matters here.
Lewis’s script is particularly adept at conveying the bond between the group of friends, even before the tragic moment that brings them even closer, we can really identify with the situations they find themselves in; the tacky nightclubs with sticky carpets, or accepting each other’s interests without question, all feel vividly real.
This concept is driven home by the chemistry of the cast, the audience are never left in any doubt that this is a close-knit group, and their friendship is instantly believable. Given the subject matter, it’s unsurprising that Flashbang finds itself tackling the issue of male mental health, and it does so sensitively, but without holding back. Sam Kacher and Emmanuel Olusanya in particular, highlight the importance of the subject through their powerful performances.
Flashbang is a searing, and beautifully written, play about the importance of friendship that feels incredibly realistic thanks to a superb cast, meaning audiences will have no trouble resonating with the material. Ultimately it celebrates life, and shows us that friendship too can be an enduring and reassuring constant in our lives, and one that that can continue long after someone has gone.
Flashbang is at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 17th September 2022.