It’s your first day in the Sixth Form at your new (and very posh) school and your mum turns up in the middle of the day with a Buzz Lightyear lunchbox. This is the probably the low point for the character known only as Boy in Dominic O’Keefe’s New Beginnings: the first offering in this year’s OUDS New Writing Festival.
The fashionable student practice of giving characters symbolic names can be a bit grating, but is justified in this play because Boy is indeed every boy. He’s every 16 year-old who’s every agonised over his lack of coolness, his excess of testosterone or his embarrassing socks.
New Beginnings is a gentle parody on the inner turmoil experienced by Boy as he contemplates and then experiences his first day at a new school. In an impressive and original nightmare scene, his previous “first day” experience is acted out by members of the cast; then, as the night progresses, Brain (a philosophical German) ponders the difficulties of being the brain of a teenage boy.
The big day arrives complete with trendy headmaster, new girl (Gold) who knows all the right things to say, a boy who admires his socks and a girl who Boy admires from afar.
This is writer Dominic O’Keefe’s first full length play and is based on his own experiences as a new sixth-former (although not strictly autobiographical - he categorically denies ever having a Buzz Lightyear lunchbox). Whilst the portrayal of Boy’s family had me a bit confused, O’Keefe generally succeeds in displaying the cartoonist’s gift for capturing the essence of his main characters with a few light strokes of the pen.
The staging was excellent with imaginative use of filmic techniques to fast-forward the story at key points. Christopher Pike gives an outstanding and completely believable performance as Boy, Nathan Ellis is superb as Brain and Dad, whilst Melita Cameron-Wood, Anirudh Mathur, Kathy Stocker and Maddy Herbert all turned in strong comedic performances in supporting roles.