Reviewed for The Reviews Hub:
There is a website called Casting Call Woe that catalogues all the ridiculous casting breakdowns for acting roles looking for young women. Such roles are usually underwritten, with any characterisation junked as quickly as the creators want their actresses to shed their clothes. Such indignities provide a title and jumping-off point for the refreshing new comedy 18-22, Attractive, Insecure, as a pair of struggling actresses wade through the morass of bad roles, only to find themselves up against each other for a good one.
The fact that performers Bethan Leyshon and Elaine O’Dwyer are also the one-act play’s writers do help ensure that their piece revolves around two solidly believable, fleshed out characters. Carys and Maire are best friends, with all the conversational shortcuts and suppressed tensions that implies. Additional resentment bubbles away as Carys – who put herself through drama school and has an agent – tries not to be jealous of, or look down upon, Maire’s untrained, agent-less career.
When the pair realise that they are both being considered for a lead role in a new Netflix series – Carys through her agent, Maire from standing in line all day at an open casting – the rising tensions are played nicely. The couple’s friendship rightly dominates for much of the play, as the pair try to not let their competitive spirit overwhelm them.
As the date of the callback audition grows near, the accompanying stresses see occasional eruptions in ways that anybody with a close, sibling-like friendship will recognise. Along the way, sideswipes at modern life for struggling actors – talk of being your own personal brand, and the increasing importance of social media in an actor’s toolkit, are commented upon – nestle convincingly alongside more mundane struggles of a flatmate who eats noisily and borrows clothes without asking.
The one hour play’s final 15 minutes get away from the writers a little, as the characters’ relationship is called upon to service plot, rather than the other way round. But that is a slight drawback to a play which will inspire laughs of recognition from any other young struggling actor, and general laughs from everybody. In writing 18-22, Attractive, Insecure, Bethan Leyshon and Elaine O’Dwyer have created roles that are valuable tools in the fight against dumb and demeaning roles for women.