The Last Sesh, at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, amuses audiences with its presentation of a friendship group immersed in lad culture – but struggles when addressing the issues caused by toxic masculinity.
Returning to Fringe, young company Ball Pit Theatre’s new contemporary comedy follows a group of sixth formers planning a lads’ holiday before half the group head off to university. Clearly inspired by the antics of award-winning British comedy The Inbetweeners, The Last Sesh does a great job of replicating the dynamics of a friendship group immersed in lad culture. The under 30’s in the audience were suitably amused by references to fit sisters and fat classmates.
The group consists of Alex (Ben Osland) who’s just been dumped; Fraser (Tom Pacitti) whose long-time girlfriend has him whipped; Max, the quiet one; Dougie, the chill one; and Freddie, the obnoxious compulsive liar. So far, so believable.
Unfortunately, the female characters in this piece do not sit as well with me. Abby (Emilie Clark) is the archetypal unwelcome girlfriend, stealing her man away from his friends and making catty comments whenever possible, whilst Hannah’s (Nicole Bambroffe) role is seemingly just to sit there and be an object of lust. At times, even Bambroffe looked noticeably bored of the character – which isn’t surprising when she spends the majority of the play passively flirting with Max, much to the chagrin of the other boys. This lazy characterisation of the girls stings even more as the play goes on, because we see the male characters develop beyond their stereotypes, maturing and learning before our eyes, whilst the girls stay static. Alison Bechtel would be pulling her hair out by the end of this show.
The central conflict of the play unfolds when Abby reveals that one of the boys is gay, outing him to the group. However, the writers seem uncomfortable with the subject matter and soon attempt to shift the focus on to the group in general and their fear of drifting apart once separating. Whilst this could be an attempt to reflect how teenage boys find themselves without the resources to talk about sexuality, it feels like the writers themselves who don’t quite know how to handle the topic.
Although muddled, The Last Sesh does try to address issues of toxic masculinity, sexuality and coming of age. There’s potential for something of more substance and I think that hindsight will be a gift in any future development of this show.