A gripping new thriller by writer Courttia Newland, Look to the Sky is a vibrant piece of new writing exploring inner-city urban culture whilst dealing with real issues such as drugs, relationships, family and trust from a young person’s perspective.

The play follows the lives of three teenagers - Doubt (Kandace Caine), Obs (Ashley J) and Braun (Frank C Keogh), who enter an abandoned warehouse to search for a lost member of their group, Inno (Joe Jacobs). As the teenagers begin their search of the warehouse, they are forced to confront their past and the very thing that scares them most: themselves.

The characters bounce off of each other with a liveliness in their actions and language that is typical of the way teenagers interact with each other. The set is in itself representative of inner city life, cold, hard and resilient. The characters make great use of their working space replicating some of the moves used in the urban art form “free running”; which gives the play a vibrancy and energy that is straight out of the streets.

With great use of street vernacular the play brings the audience into a world that is sometimes very misunderstood, in fact the use of street slang is so good I did find myself losing track as you do when surrounded by teenagers talking amongst themselves. At times there are parts of the play that could confuse the audience, and not just by the slang, however the clear emotion and Newland’s ability to tell a story gives us a theatrical experience that is at times harrowing and in essence very true - this is a play about the world of the teenage mind.


Courttia Newland's new play takes inner-city youth as its jumping off point, but swiftly vaults into a dreamlike world of pain and desire that's more like an allegory for the teenage condition. Angela Michaels's production has strong acting and bright ideas but struggles to rise to the considerable challenge: how to represent, on one warehouse set in two 30-minute scenes, the literal and metaphorical selves of teenagers Doubt (Kandace Caine), Obs (Ashley J), Braun (Frank C Keogh) and Inno (Joe Jacobs).
The rude, ripe language of London schools and estates is a happy hunting ground for dialogue writers. When the house is filled by a school party, simply saying, 'Oh my days!' brings it down. But Newland's writing is more than street pastiche: its downbeat lyricism dilates the angry concrete setting like a spray-paint rainbow.
Every metaphor looks upwards, most memorably a beautiful vision of a daytime crescent moon as a thumbnail scratch on the bloodless flesh of the sky. The plot is more situation than story: kids seek their lost friend and hide from their imagined enemies.
And some characters are clearer than others: Joe Jacobs's Inno delivers a blissful monologue about the smells and sounds of childhood happiness while Ashley J's Obs is a writer who is semi-detached from the world he's in - and will bring back shades of 'The Scholar' for Newland fans.
All resolve into clearer focus when they shrug off the dream and become literal, bickering schoolfriends. What's real? Frustratingly, it's never clear. But this elusive new short appeals by keepin' it dreamlike.
By Caroline McGinn


The alien terrain of the teenager is the landscape of this unsettling, oblique play for young people.Drawing on elements from sci-fi, cinema, surrealism and street culture it effectively captures the bewilderment of adolescence, though it is a little too opaque and jumbled to pack a real emotional punch.

Three hooded youths are spewed into an industrial set of scaffolding and wooden platforms to an evocative trip hop soundtrack (spine-tingling work from James Grant).

Searching in an abandoned warehouse for one of their missing number it soon becomes clear there is something else going on here, suggested by their unusual names: Doubt, Braun and Obs, habit of speaking in a heady language of urban argot and poetical lyricism, and the animal physicality of a sinuous Obs and the simian leaping of Braun.

Although it does become muddled later on, credit to writer Courttia Newland for never patronising but offering something fresh and challenging on today’s youth which often flies, verbally, and contains echoes of Philip Ridley’s plays for teenagers.

Frank C Keogh, who triumphed in Ridley’s Vincent River at the Old Red Lion Theatre nearly 12 months ago, again offers a nuanced portrait of a confused, angry young man, while director Angela Michaels skilfully maintains the temperature at just below boiling point.
By Jonathan Lovett