Scan Artists
Bridge Theatre company present Scan Artists at The Yard Theatre. Photograph: Richard Davenport

Sitting at the front awaiting the start of Scan Artists, it was hard not to wonder if I was about to behold a future household name.

This production of Evan Placey’s play, about a group of young cancer sufferers who form a pop choir in their group therapy sessions, is by the Bridge Theatre Company, formed of graduates from the Brit School of performing arts, whose famous alumni include Adele and Amy Winehouse.

A circular area in the centre of the stage is the ‘braided circle’, a place where the ten youngsters meet to discuss their experiences. It’s a serious subject treated atypically, with choreographed movement, music and loud colours everywhere. As the group members battle to come to terms with cancer, and amid adolescent anxieties and rebellions, a love story unfolds.

Amy Smurthwaite is Jenna, an 18-year-old recently diagnosed with lung cancer, who blurts out her amorous intentions to her soon-to-be boyfriend, box salesman Angus (Sean Byrne), before declaring: “ I’m not a slag, I just have cancer.” As their comically awkward exchange continues, the rest of the cast, outside the main circle of the stage, sing a rousing acoustic rendition of The Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Fallen In Love’. Stylish stuff.

During the sessions Jenna meets Rox, a northern singer-songwriter played by Zoe West, who inspires her to let go of her inhibitions, dance and fall in love properly. And so the healing power of self-expression is weaved into the narrative.

The play wants at turns to tug at the heartstrings and subvert sentimentality. It doesn’t particularly achieve either, but the performances are all strong, and the cast’s grasp of the musical side of things particularly impressive.

Harmomised versions of Outcast’s ‘Hey Ya’ and ‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child are convincing, and the use of a loop station on stage shows how a basic grasp of music technology can really enhance a theatrical performance, such as when a snippet of voice repeats during a monologue, like the workings of a troubled mind.

 Scan Artists is presented at The Yard Theatre by The Bridge Theatre Company.
Until 10 May 2014
The Yard Theatre
Unit 2a Queen’s Yard
E9 5EN

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