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Holloway Jones

by on 19 February 2022

Keeping on Track

Holloway Jones

by Evan Placey

Richmond Shakespeare Society Young Actors’ Company at the Mary Wallace Theatre, Twickenham until 20th February

Review by Eleanor Lewis

The life stretching ahead of Holloway Jones (so named because her mother is in prison, father absent) is like the track on which she races her BMX bike: ups, downs hairpin corners and plenty of potential for accidents.  Having once been given an old bike by one of her former foster carers, Holloway has become a skilled BMX rider and her coach is training her for the Olympic Academy.  Aside from her foster carer (only ever briefly referred to), her best friend Gem and her coach, Holloway is largely adrift in the world, so when controlling boyfriend Avery enters her life the train of events is unsurprising.

A supporting cast of chorus provides details and commentary: there are school students, clubbers, crowds at racetracks or individual voices – a police office or a teacher giving another angle, filling a gap.  Screens at the back of the stage show Holloway on a racetrack, or beside a river with Avery, and a static bike brought on and off stage as required zoomed in with a cinematic view of Holloway Jones racing on her bike, trying to keep it on track as she struggles to keep her life on track.

Evan Placey’s play Holloway Jones was conceived and written for young people.  Its aim was to examine some of the issues that lead teenagers into trouble and RSS’s young company of actors, YAC, produced an efficient and skilled version of this cautionary tale. 

The storyline, while fairly predictable, is nonetheless engaging and Emi Francis’ unsentimental performance as Holloway drew the audience on to her side and took them with her through both her mistakes and her ambitions.  Being an ensemble piece the work is a team effort but, of the three main characters, it must be said that Leah Dawson’s performance as boyfriend Avery was particularly striking, she conveyed charm and quiet threat in equal amounts and gave credibility to the relationship between Avery and Holloway.  Similarly Amy Brian as Gem, best friend and voice of reason in a crowded and confusing world, was an effective portrait of a teenage girl growing in maturity and equipped with both sense and an understanding of how the world works.

In smaller roles, Ceci Cripps was a rather philosophical police officer doing a difficult job in a difficult world and Ruby Skinner made a nice switch from chorus character into overwhelmed-but-trying teacher.  Kieran Judd as Holloway’s coach effectively portrayed a stressed obsessive, well-meaning but unaware of anything much beyond his own narrow field of vision.

The work might have benefitted from a little stronger direction.  It’s always going to be challenging for any teenager who isn’t actually a street-smart kid living in poverty and on their wits, to convey one in an acting performance, but a little more voice work would probably have increased the authenticity.  An element of rhyme and rap in some of the chorus commentary needed more emphasis; and conversations between characters could have been a little more natural. There is a particular importance to the type of street vernacular these characters use, it’s one of the things that bonds them together.  These are small points though and overall, YAC’s Holloway Jones was a well-executed and fairly uplifting production of a story for our times.

Eleanor Lewis, February 2022

Photography by Laura-May Hassan

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