An ill-judged outburst has cost twenty-something Danny his job – but before he has a chance to tell partner Lisa, she reveals that she’s expecting. Danny’s layabout mate Sam is peddling knock-off cigarettes, in a plan which may ensnare his bright-but-naïve cousin Johnny. Lisa’s sister Shauna, meanwhile, is looking for reasons to prise the couple apart… and in the midst of all this turmoil, Sam’s dreamed up an audacious plan to rob the local drug dealer. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, of course – but perhaps not quite what you’re expecting.
Grey Skies is a curious piece: half high-stakes drama, half lightweight comedy. The humour’s to the fore in the earlier scenes, and the characters we meet are entertainingly stereotyped: Sam, played by Joshua Oakes-Rogers, is almost loveable in how audaciously he takes advantage of those around him. The programme says that there’s been a last-minute cast change, but I really wouldn’t have been able to tell; late sub Clara Porterfield is witty and thoroughly convincing, playing the catty, sensible Shauna.
This first part is decent enough – gently funny, well-delivered, with lots of jokes which work and a few that fall a bit flat. But it’s in the last 20 minutes or so, when the story turns more tense and serious, that Cue Productions truly hit their stride. The conspiracy begins to unravel; the script tackles questions of honour among thieves, the corrosive effects of a secret, and the fact that anyone has their price. And although the characters find themselves in an extreme situation, their responses to it are always believable, with the destructive forces we see building between them having obvious analogues in our own more law-abiding lives.
Unfortunately though, there’s something about the whole set-up which doesn’t quite ring true. In the real world, plenty of people lose their jobs, and plenty of people have shady friends. But very few of them rob a drug dealer; such a rash decision is fine as the foundation for a comic caper, but it can’t quite bear the weight of the more introspective later scenes. We need a bit more here – more desperation, more inner turmoil, more motivation overall.
The conclusion, however, is perfectly judged: a series of intercut scenes ramp up the pace beautifully, and it all builds towards an unexpected yet tragically believable climax. All in all Grey Skies is a very watchable piece of theatre, which packs an unexpected dramatic punch towards the end. It’s well worth your time now – and it promises much for this young company’s future.