Four Minutes Twelve Seconds

James Fritz

Coliseum Theatre production

Oldham Coliseum

February 21 - March 7, 2020; 2hr

Jo Mousley as Di in Oldham Coliseum's gripping production of Four Minutes 12 Seconds. All pics: Joel Chester Fildes

Teenagers remain stupid, morals change, and it doesn't always do to do something when the world briefly stops turning. James Fritz's intense two hours of debate about teenage sex in the digital age in some ways sums up the modern condition.

The 2014 work - his first to be produced - is at times a little obvious, as husband and wife bat back and forth about the transgression of their son Jack - future Doer of Big Things - and what to do about him. But the evening, jointly directed by Chris Lawson and Natasha Harrison with a stark but striking set design by Anna Reid, is always exciting and in the first half hour or so actually quite funny, twisting its moral centre like a Government in an election year.

Di's (Jo Mousley, intense and angry) and David's (Lee Toomes) little angel (who isn't seen on stage), was sent to a better school to get him away from bad influences and rough characters, but at 17 has been beaten up by the brother of his ex-girlfriend, Cara.

Why? For filming himself and Cara (Alyce Liburd, good but not obviously a teenager) having sex and posting the resulting four minutes and 12 seconds of smut on the internet - current viewings, half a million in a week...

Well, attitudes to sex change almost by the year and what we find disgusting isn't apparently so wrong to teens on a constant diet of social sharing, easy relationships and (presumably) the smorgasbord of internet porn. Even so, Jack's mum is livid with everyone but herself.

Dad wants to hold off on action because he hopes it will all blow over... and because he's got a secret. Mum, with the self-righteous angst of an angel in hell, wants to have it out with the girl - who must be lying; with her family; with the son's friend Nick (Noah Olaoye) - whom she is sure posted the video without her son's consent, and with the police. But then she calms down and starts to think. Not, we discover, necessarily a good thing...

The shocks (mainly for mum Di) keep piling up, and the family unit starts to fall apart as more revelations come to light - resulting in overwhelmed, angry Di herself attempting to do something very stupid. Jo Mousley's performance is one of her strongest at the Coliseum and a terrific mix of anger and guilt.

If the play teaches us anything it is that modern teenagers and their attitudes to life might be more sophisticated and savvy than when even their parents were teens, but that just gives them more opportunities to be vicious, jealous and disgusting.

The play has no real resolution - in that tempers calm, Jack gets off without much in the way of retribution, the family returns to a reasonable new normality and the world keeps turning. But the implication is that it is perhaps a little sadder than it was before.

#4min12sec #JamesFritz #LifeOnline


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