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Theatre Review: Olympilads @ TheatreN16


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Olympilads follows the story of a family near breaking point. Set against the backdrop of the 2012 Olympics, three siblings struggle against each other, trying to hold their fragile relationships together.

It's another Andrew Maddock beauty that will leave you thinking from the moment you're welcomed into the space

The interesting staging and creative seating arrangement (allowing you to choose whether you sit on a cushion on the floor alongside the actors, or take one of the seats around the room) create a truly intimate environment. You feel like a welcomed intruder in this family's life.

This warmth and intimacy is a stark contrast to the story being told; the environment resembles a family happy and at peace, not alienated and at war. This contrast works perfectly. 

The actors are energetic and engaging from the moment you enter. They work brilliantly in the round, inhabiting the space excellently with a feeling of ease from start to finish.

Rhys Yates plays Simeon, who has been dealt a tough hand having to care for his younger brother, Darren, played with heart-breaking naivety by Nabiu Samuel. Michelle Barwood plays the estranged sister, Abigail, who doesn't offer any help in the way of care for their mentally ill brother, suggesting that Yates deserves his own life. 

Yates is excellent as Simeon, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and caught between what he wants and what is right. He offers a sensitive performance as a young man thrown into a position he doesn't know how to handle, trying to maintain his 'hard' persona whilst deep down feeling lost.

Abigail's hard exterior and lack of patience for Darren does make her a slightly unlikable character to begin with, but Barwood, who takes a while to settle into the role, manages to find the hidden vulnerability Abigail feels after the death of her father. 

Nabiu Samuel is also great with a delicate and heart-rending performance as the delinquent, Darren. Unaware of the upset he is causing with the people around him and adamant that he will be running in the Olympics, he offers a convincing turn. His words are spoken as fast as he can run, emphasising his youthful energy, although occasionally this causes him to run over lines and lose clarity.

Overall, the play is excellently executed with strong direction from Niall Phillips, who revels in the stories behind each character and coerces natural and real performances from the actors. 

Andrew Maddock knows how to create truthful words and the repeated monologues delivered by Samuel are written beautifully. As you find out more about the story behind the family, these speeches become more and more heartbreaking. 

Together, Maddock and Phillips create something unique, funny, and moving, with a powerful statement to make about family and the current shape of the world. 

The play is a slow burner, taking a while to fully ground itself, but once it clicks you'll be lost for words. 

Olympilads is showing at TheatreN16 until 26th August.

Tickets are available for £15/£12 online at 

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