Theatre503 is a small, intimate and rather quirky theatre found in The Latchmere pub, a short walk away from Clapham Junction Station. ‘A First World Problem’ centres on three boarding school girls battling the pressures and expectations of a 21st century capitalist society – including drugs, self-harming, eating disorders bullying and pinning their hopes on getting into Oxford.
The play has a very simplistic set – the only costume changes were deciding whether they wore cardigans or not alongside their school uniforms. The stage held three beds in a row with a chair at the foot of each. The three girls changed the set through dance by swinging chairs into the air and rearranging beds between scenes.
Writer and the play’s protagonist, Milly Thomas, starred as ‘Hebe’ – a manipulative and vulnerable teenager. Milly’s portrayal of Hebe is superb – she can come across as a fragile young woman one moment before swiftly morphing into an immature, desperately angry child the next. Nevertheless, she always remains engaging. She is also the only one to remain the same character throughout the play, which helped to keep everything grounded. The other two actresses – Molly Vevers and Kate Craggs – played multiple roles flawlessly in this small all-female cast.
The play’s ending remains unsettling and ambiguous as the audience is desperate to know the characters’ fates. All three performers handle the dark and at times, depressing topics in the play well as they lift the lid on teenage issues which are seen as ‘taboo’.
Overall, the performance was sharp, savvy and crammed with pop culture references that kept it fresh, relatable and provided an honest portrayal of what life may be like in an elite society. The issues the characters faced felt very truthful and universal. Being treated like ‘investments’ and ‘prize racehorses’ is a matter that stretches beyond the life of boarding school girls.
This performance is running at Theatre503 until the 12th July. Find out more here.
By Jessica Reid and Tamsin Crouch