You could be forgiven for thinking we’re living through a mass flashback to the ’80s: we have a Tory Prime Minister; riots; protests; economic misery and leggings are back in.
It’s understandable, then, why the Finborough Theatre has commissioned this revival of Doug Lucie’s 1982 play. Set during the Brixton Riots, it follows a group of Oxford graduates, living in a house owned by one of their parents. If it weren’t for ‘Airplane!’ on TV and Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ on the radio, it might pass for today.
Unlike everyone fighting on the streets, the friends are busy drinking, taking drugs and having sex. Their dialogue is sharply and wittily observed: privilege and education has given them the confidence to be fiercely independent, and sneeringly unapologetic.
But soon the politics within the house gets as fraught as the politics outside and it’s when this happens that the play asks: what have we created? This collection of happy-go-lucky but uncaring individuals are a lost generation: more wrapped up in their possessions and fun than their local community. ‘Hard Feelings’ quickly becomes a scathing look at the effects of a Thatcher-driven society.
Defibrillator’s production is enjoyably snappy, with an excellent ensemble cast who create a convincing dynamic and Stephanie Williams’s gloriously ’80s design and costumes are great in a cringe-making, ‘Oh my god, did people actually wear that’ sort of way.
In the end, though, the play doesn’t really work as a parallel with today. Despite the apparent similarities, too much has changed, from class boundaries to education and the way we connect with the rest of the world. But if you take ‘Hard Feelings’ as a portrait of the dangers of the ignorance of youth, it is right on the money.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell