Speech and Debate: Theatre Review


Patsy Ferran, Douglas Booth & Tony Revolori

I bought tickets to Speech and Debate solely because of Douglas Booth but during the show, I soon forgot about him in favour of Patsy Ferran, who was the star of the show.

The play, written by Stephen Karam and directed by Tom Attenborough, stars Booth as Howie, a student who has recently moved to a school in Salem, Oregon. He begins flirting with a guy online but realises it’s the school’s drama teacher Mr Healy. Solomon (Tony Revolori) is a burgeoning journalist working at the newspaper, investigating claims about Healy after seeing Howie post something about him on Diwata’s (Ferran) blog. All three misfits come together in an attempt to expose Mr. Healy under the guise of Diwata’s Speech and Debate club.

The play itself is great but I just wanted more. It involves dark and serious themes and storylines but tells them in a largely comic way, which was definitely a good idea but I wish they’d given into the drama and let the heavy moments sit so they could fully resonate. I feel like they were swept up too quickly so it’s impact was diminished and I was left feeling a bit let down.

I didn’t have huge hopes for Booth but he was much better than I expected. Sadly his character is given the least to do so he never gets the opportunity to shine. Solomon has the most dramatic and transformative storyline and Revolori dealt with that extremely well but they both pale in comparison to Ferran who was fantastic. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and the show would have sucked without her. She really gives it energy and life, helps it flow, is just so entertaining and she also had a very good American accent (Booth’s is very inconsistent).

I would still recommend Booth’s fans come see this though cos of the staging. You are really close to him wherever you sit because the seats are only three rows deep and they perform on the floor with seats surrounding them on three sides, which means you’re sooo close when he does his hilarious dance and strips off…. and if you’re not a fan of Booth, then you still come and witness the wonder that is Patsy Ferran!

Speech and Debate runs until 1 April at London’s Trafalgar Studios 2

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