Catherine Johnson's last venture was the massively successful musical Mamma Mia. Nothing could be further in scope from this than her latest play which is housed in the miniature powerhouse that is the Bush theatre. Teenage Satanism may sound an unlikely subject to engage, but in the hands of director Mike Bradwell and an excellent ensemble a potentially difficult topic is transmuted into the most compelling of contemporary plays. With a keen ear for dialogue and a quick, perceptive wit, Johnson makes us care about her characters very quickly, the intimacy of the Bush a perfect foil for the intense drama unfolding.
El, Erin & Joby are three Bristol schoolfriends dabbling in the occult one summer. Tentatively exploring with a ouija board they unleash an emotional and unexpected train of events that brings chaos in its wake. El's mum, Anna, is a woman for whom a Saturday night on the tiles represents the summit of her existence. Loud, flirtatious and immature she manages to be both alienating and quirkily endearing, a triumph for both Johnson and the actress who plays her, Suzan Sylvester.
Tom Daplyn, Alice O'Connell and Jenny Platt are similarly superb as the teenage trio emmeshed in a potent cocktail of hormones and horror and Jem Wall's Craig is touching as the sympathetic builder whose kindness is routinely exploited. Jonathan Fensom's atmospheric set vividly conjures El's rooftop terrace and such a top notch cast bring Johnson's darkly funny, bittersweet play beautifully to life.