Back Down is an intense play by Steven Camden aka Polarbear, whose excitement stems from writing dialogue and unashamedly falls in love with his own ‘Brummie’ story, and the action centralises itself on the friendship of three ‘brummie’ friends: Zia, Tommy and Luke. ★★★★
Tommy comes up with the idea to go camping, as a send-off for Luke, for he is leaving Smethwick and the boys to go to university in Leeds. The drama starts as soon as the car journey begins, as Tommy forgets to book the campsite, Luke’s phone has failed to get signal, and Zia is pretty clueless.
Back Down creates an atmosphere of suspense, fun and cheek, as the boys travel to Snowdonia and decide to climb a mountain, which never appears; they meet a Rambo lookalike character; and they share emotions with each other that otherwise would not be expressed back home.
Tessa Walker is the Associate Director at The Birmingham Rep, whose credits include the direction of The Rep’s first Christmas show in 2013, A Christmas Carol and the current play Circles by Rachel De-lahey. Tessa lent her formidable creativity to Back Down, cast of which were outstanding in movement energy, speech delivery and the ability to do both at the same time. The three actors shone incredibly, and it is hard to distinguish the three, for they were equally talented, energetic, and united in making us brummies feel at home with the accent and some colloquial terms being spoken.
Waheed Akhtar portrays Zia delicately but with a rugged edge, as he is the peacemaker of the three, whose job is to ensure that the boys get there and are prepared for trip; and he even brags about bringing a small stove. Waheed shows an ambitious multi-faceted role, where we see an innocent side in one moment to displaying expression of frustration and anger in the next. Very versatile and captivating to watch.
Sam Cole surprises the audience with his portrayal of the cheeky and short-fused Tommy, whose role is to antagonise his friends as often as he can. Sam is a young actor, yet showcases a maturity in his acting ability that equalises the other two. Tommy seems to have been written for Sam, as he played it most naturally. His speech delivery was the most real, sincere and riveting.
Lawrence Walker plays the role of Luke, and the camp trip exists because his friends wanted to give him the best farewell party. Lawrence’s energy was commendable, and my favourite part of the play was when the boys were running from the gunshot, and Luke has hurt his ribs, and he appears to be the most scared so he runs the fastest. Lawrence shows a vivacious and effervescent energy and incredible talent in speaking clearly as he ran.
I came away from the play thinking of Back Down as: a play for the Inbetweeners generation. It felt as though the 1hr20m went by in seconds.