Burying Your Brother in the Pavement is an intriguing title for a play – and it comes from the pen of a playwright described as a ‘powerful voice for Britain’s youth’ (Independent).
And when Norwich Theatre Royal’s Youth Company presents this challenging Jack Thorne drama at Stage Two from March 30 to April 1, audiences can expect a rollercoaster of thought-provoking emotion, spliced with a dash of humour and some delightful music.
Writer Jack Thorne is best known for TV dramas including Skins, Shameless, The Fades, This is England ’86/’88/’90, Glue and and the feature film The Scouting Book for Boys – and he was chosen by JK Rowling to write the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Deputy director of the theatre’s Arts Courses, Jo Reil, who is directing Burying Your Brother in the Pavement, said: “It’s a funny, poignant play about a young lad who wasn’t very close to his brother and he goes on a journey to where his brother has died – a hard estate – and he learns more about his brother in the three days on this estate than he knew in his lifetime. But he also learns a lot about himself.
“It’s quite challenging but it’s a play written for the age group that are performing it – for 16 to 20-year-olds. There are lots of things to tackle – sexuality, love, friendship, family, the truth, what you should tell people, what you hold back, why, the consequences of that – there’s lots going on.”
In contrast to the complex emotions portrayed, there is also a comedic element with some larger-than-life caricatures of Tom’s family, and also some lively live music, plus creative scenery which will include a graffiti wall.
Jo Reil explained: “The lyrics are given to us but the music isn’t. So I have cast some brilliantly talented people from our youth company who can not only act but can play instruments and they have taken on board the whole musicality of it. So we have actor-musicians on stage. We’ve got guitars, flutes, saxophone – and they have gone away and written the music so they have a real ownership over it which I think they really appreciate.”
Burying Your Brother in the Pavement was part of the National Theatre Connections Festival in 2008 as a play with songs and dancing about grief. Tom’s brother Luke is dead, killed by a broken bottle to the neck on the Tunstall estate, and Tom’s feelings are all over the place. Tom really didn’t like Luke, or thought he didn’t. Then on the estate he meets Tight, a friend of his dead brother, leading to some unexpected discoveries and the odd decision to try to bury his brother in the pavement of the estate, at the very point where he was brutally murdered.
Matthew Doswell, who plays Tom, said: “There’s a complexity to Tom. Tom runs away from his family because he is trying to deal with everything himself, but even he doesn’t understand why he has run away – that’s his coping mechanism. I think the play speaks to everyone. It has an array of emotions – a combination of beauty, sadness, love, loss. It’s all in there and audiences will enjoy it.”
Heather Kelly plays Tom and Luke’s sister, Courtney, and said she thought audiences would most enjoy the music and comedy while they were watching the play, “but at the end of it, the thing that I think they will take away is the moral about understanding people you really love and by the end of it they will have a very different feeling to what they were experiencing throughout the play”.
Jack Fisher plays Luke and said his character could be interpreted as a ghost or as the thoughts going on in Tom’s mind as the other characters can’t see him and only Tom can hear him speaking.
“I think the writer Jack Thorne has it right – especially in the way he portrays teenagers. When we first read the play, I think it touched us all because we are all teenagers and could relate to it ourselves. It will connect with a teenage audience but also anyone with teenage children or grandchildren. There’s a whole family involved and it looks at how adults treat children around topics like death.”
One of the elements of the production the whole cast has enjoyed being involved in is the inclusion of songs.
Ali Hunt, who plays Tight, said the play had been quite challenging but also fun: “There are certain characters in the play who are really over the top and that is funny. But serious issues are explored and it is modern and relevant – I think it is something a lot of young people can look at and learn from. Most of us helped write the songs so it has been a creative collaboration making sure we chose the right sort of music. It’s a heartfelt story and has been a complete creative process. It’s going to look incredible and sound incredible – and we’re going to act it really well too!”
Burying Your Brother In The Pavement is here at Stage Two from 30 March-1 April, and tickets are available now.