🎭 The High Life
📍 Barons Court Theatre
🎫 PR invite
Scott Younger’s new play The High Life heads to Barons Court theatre for a funny yet honest portrayal of toxic work environments.
The story follows Kayla (Feyisara Mendes) a graduate who moved to London and began work in a hipster coffee shop. Kayla dreams of having a ‘proper’ job and after a run-in with an old acquaintance, she soon lands a new role at a PR firm. We follow Kayla on her journey at Performance PR, and the eventual burnout she experiences. The complicated (and secret!) relationship with her boss paired with the workload, takes a toll on Kayla and she results to alcohol as a coping mechanism.
‘The High Life’ is humourous, and at times heartbreaking, as we witness Kayla’s decline throughout her time at the PR firm.
Directed by Sarah Githugu, Mendes gave a strong performance and their comedic timing was brilliant. They skillfully captured our attention and maintained high energy throughout the 2 hour-long solo show. The character, Kayla, was incredibly likeable from the moment she entered the stage, dancing to Whitney Houston and retelling funny stories about her cafe job.
Mendes performed various characters in the story, effortlessly switching between accents and mannerisms. While I did notice some slip-ups, they still delivered a great performance and I especially enjoyed the emotive range we were shown by Mendes. Act 2 features a more vulnerable Kayla as she struggles with the pressure to be ‘successful’ and becomes reliant on alcohol to manage her stress.
Younger’s writing is authentic and sheds light on a multitude of issues, that sadly may feel familiar to many of us 20-somethings-year-olds. Kayla experiences casual racism from clients, sexual harassment from strangers and dodgy propositions from landlords. On top of that, her boyfriend’s behaviour seems to knock her confidence, making Kayla question her ability in the job.
While I appreciated all the themes, some scenes (the Dubai work trip) were too long and didn’t necessarily add much to the overall story. Other scenarios with Kayla’s boss/boyfriend also felt predictable.
I commend Younger for writing a unique play that explores a young black woman’s experience in toxic workplaces. Going a step further to delve deep and highlight industry racism would have elevated the story even more. From hearing the description of Kayla’s colleagues who quit or were fired, there is something to be said about them all being women of colour. This could have been an interesting plot to focus on, especially as Kayla acknowledged that her white colleagues and Darren seem to get away with doing minimal work.
Overall, I enjoyed ‘The High Life‘. The creative team have developed an original piece of theatre, performed wonderfully by Mendes. With some minimised scenes and more focus on specific issues, this story could be even stronger. I’m looking forward to where it will go next!