Trash, The White Bear, London

Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons has a sizeable reputation and presumably had a budget to compare for his docu-drama Trashed, on release across the globe to expose how much our society wastes and the damage that results.

Those with credibility as the truly sustainable ought to be the shoestring LittleBerry Productions, whose show Trash at London’s low-budget White Bear Theatre explores life as freegan – in other words, eking out an existence by rummaging through the rubbish bins and foraging in city parks.

It could be a sharp, political satire on capitalist society, picking up on a topical theme as governments begin to seek limits on what we jettison.

There are even hints of dramatic tension as the student housemates scrap over a fresh consignment of bin bags.

Sadly, under Timothy J. Howe’s over-excitable direction, they are not developed and we never get beyond raucous student comedy, several decibels too loud.

The lasting impression is that the freegans could well grow up to be rampant consumerists and their diet of bleach-coated chocolate and ancient ketchup is hardly likely to convert the audience to a reassessment of what we throw away.

The script is by a journalist, Tom Hunt, so it’s perhaps no coincidence that some of the best humour is generated by a besuited, plummy BBC reporter, Nigel (Paddy Cooper), who calls round to make a documentary and can barely conceal his distaste for his subject-matter.

The rest of the cast, rather too large for the tiny performance space, spans the gamut of student stereotypes and a range of regions and nationalities.

To name a few, Holly Ashman is the lusty, boyfriend-dumping, penguin-loving biology student Julia, while Craig Deuchar is Liam, a lanky Scottish lad with animal spirits and habits. In cerebral contrast, Henry Allan is Gabriel the Marxist, puzzingly camp given his obsession with his absent girlfriend — or is that the point? – while Catherine Forrester is Inga, a down-to-earth Lithuanian, who serves, refreshingly, as a foil to the craziness of the other students.

The main plot device is Marie (Sophie Tergeist), the new French house-mate who keeps us guessing: just how appalled will she be when she realises who she is moving in with?

Among the student japes, there are moments to entertain a more adult audience, such when Gabriel ruins his image by being caught reading Twilight instead of Das Kapital, and a bleachy, chocolately kiss from Julia.

But for the most part, what began as a bright idea ends up being dangerously close to trash. The players, fortunately, are still young enough to recycle it into something more meaningful.

Producer: LittleBerry Productions

Dates of Run: March 26-April 13

Writer: Tom Hunt
Director Timothy J. Howe
Cast: Craig Deuchar, James Stirling-Gillies, Joseph Stevenson, AJ MacGillivray, Catherine Forrester, Holly Ashman, Sophie Tergeist, Paddy Cooper, Henry Allan, Sophie Wardlow, Alysha Wood.

Barbara Lewis © 2013.