Growing up in a village and then moving to a city gives you a very distinctive sense of place. to hunt violets captured this exactly and felt like a slice of life, a day at a British sixth form that could have been pulled from my own memory – except the drugs, we weren’t those people. How strongly I remember the rumours about those sofas in the study room, the trips across the death-trap road for Tesco meal deals and the prosecco fizz feeling before a house party, fancy, exciting, but cheaper than champagne. Seeing it with a level of detachment made me realise how time has passed.
The writers and actors spoke about it being in many ways a play about money, about the specific situation where people transfer from private to state schools specifically for sixth form because it’ll give them a better chance of getting into Oxbridge, about borrowing money from your rich friend and ‘forgetting’ to give it back, about the big houses on Brooklands Avenue with fridges that have built-in ice dispensers – an experience that feels so specific and so general at once.
The play was interspersed with monologues that took on a feeling of poeticism; perhaps they take you out of the narrative too much, perhaps they reflect the profound thoughts we don’t share with other people or the natural poeticism of life, or perhaps that’s too pretentious. One character spoke about how she doesn’t really feel things, not at seventeen, and how maybe we seek out people who fill that void. Maybe that’s also why we seek out theatre.
What does it feel like to be hit? Did she say yes? I am thinking about Spring Awakening, about empathy and about pain and about sex; a story from Germany in the 1800s transposed to now, moved up an octave once again and, if anything, even more pressing. Both anachronistic and achingly present, burns still smarting.
These characters felt like real people I’ve met, people you’ve met. We all know the girl everyone has a crush on who has a questionable older boyfriend, we all know about the boys who paint their nails and talk about intersectionality but are really no better at all. We all know the one everyone worries about who ends up being the one to get in to Cambridge. I am thinking about Mrs Dalloway, and walking down the corridor in my sixth form and I see them pass me one by one, pulling their hair out from under their coat, dropping their folders, waving with their painted nails.