Review: Bobby & Amy at Pleasance Courtyard

When Emily Jenkins picked up her Fringe First award for this invigorating two-hander, she talked about the theatres that had turned the play down on the basis that, beautiful writing aside, the subject matter wasn’t relevant to their audiences. In the end, she went ahead and staged it herself. And very good she did too, because Bobby & Amy is a play that deserves to be seen by audiences anywhere.

In some ways, it’s odd to think it irrelevant because its backdrop is the foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001, an outbreak that affected everyone in the country. The mass slaughter of animals and the burning of the fields obviously had a particularly devastating impact on farming communities, but in a nation reliant on agriculture, its implications were widespread.

The charm of the play, however, is that it avoids a detailed discussion of the crisis, focusing instead on a tale of two Cotswolds teenagers coming of age in a countryside that is changing around them.

Played with astonishing precision by Kimberly Jarvis and Will Howard, they are misfits who find companionship in their outsider status. She is forever keeping her distance from a gang of bullying girls who sneer at her lack of conformity. He is on the autistic spectrum and more at home with numbers than the confusing world of people. As the play goes on, a relationship that starts reluctantly blossoms into something heartfelt – a shield against an uncaring world.

In the playwright’s bare-bones, actor-centred production, Jarvis and Howard switch deftly through a cast of supporting roles, creating a vivid sense not just of the people but the whole local economy, from tractor driver to chip-shop owner. As the disease takes hold and the children’s stomping ground becomes forbidden territory, so the use – and abuse – of the land becomes a political issue. The end is too ambivalent to be called happy but, with spark and poetry, it demonstrates the importance of fighting to protect the environment. 

Bobby & Amy, Pleasance Courtyard, 31 Jul – 26 Aug, 12.45pm

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