A Review: Kate Tempest’s Wasted

Here’s the thing: I’m kind of scared of theatre. I’m also scared of ballet, opera and East London clubs populated by Hip Young Things. So when the actors came out onto the stage and admitted that maybe it was a bit weird for a bunch of people to sit in a small room watching other people pontificate about their lives, I felt relieved.


I will also admit that I booked a ticket (and made all my nearest and dearest book tickets) because I saw the words ‘Kate Tempest’. After seeing one of Kate’s spoken word sets last year, I’m convinced she’s so painfully talented that it might be a crime. I’m a writer, I get words. But I don’t get how she does it. I can’t even explain it properly here, that’s how much words escape me.

So, a summary of the play: Three twenty-somethings Charlotte, Danny and Ted get together on the anniversary of their friend’s death, trying to work out why their lives make them so miserable.

That makes it sound depressing, and whilst living as a debt-riddled graduate in one of the best cities in the world did make me relate, it’s more about an entire generation of people trying to drown their sorrows, because realising you lost your dreams via nine-to-fives and paying rent is just too depressing.

It’s also ridiculously funny, mainly because it just rings true. One of my friends who saw the play said she so rarely felt like the target market for the things she went to see, but in this case, well, the characters were us. I could point out at least five different experiences I’ve had, and Ted kept bizarrely morphing into one of my friends as he danced his arse off and played with glowsticks.

This was a play for us, about our lives in London, and I’m pretty sure everyone in that theatre felt the same way. The people who are nostalgic for being thirteen and thinking everything was possible. The people who spend all their time in the same relationships, with the same memories until you’re constantly repeating ‘what a night, man, what a night!’ on a loop, because there’s nothing else to say.

Wasted reminded me of one of my favourite films, Human Traffic, except better because it was set in London, here and now. Even easier to relate to. This city spits you up and then expects you to cling to the walls of your shitty overpriced flat because everywhere else is just not as good. The only downside was this play was not also a film, because I wanted to watch it again, so that I could truly take the time to appreciate the lyricism. There were certain lines that I just wanted to write down and remember, but you were so busy being drawn into the story that it was hard to focus on just one thing.

Lyrically, the play was a success, using Tempest’s clear talent for rhythm, but also just an understanding of people and character. The actors were excellent, drawing you in, loving them because you see yourself and everyone you love living out their lives. Staging was perfect, simple, but the use of filmed images of the actors, as well as the lighting and visuals was just…excellent.

I know reviews are supposed to be balanced, and I’m usually a master of criticism, but I cannot find one thing wrong with it. Except that it was the last night and I want to watch it again.


Another brilliant thing was that I randomly met Kate Tempest in the queue for the bathroom before the show, and managed to have a normal conversation like a normal person, instead of the painfully eager fangirl that I naturally become when faced with talented people I look up to. And as much as we all love to say ‘oh, they’re so modest’, I was actually kind of surprised at how Kate was rather unsure of herself, and so pleased The Roundhouse took a chance on her.

It highlighted, once again, that we’re all just artists, trying to create and get by. There are probably people out there who are as talented as Kate Tempest (well…maybe), but never had the guts to try something they’ve never done before. And that’s sad. Because this foray into new territory was one of the best creative pieces I’ve seen in years, and possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen in the theatre.


And if you can’t understand the utter terror at the idea of walking around IKEA for four hours on a comedown, then you are clearly not of our people, and should probably go back to a posh East London club, where you belong.

6 thoughts on “A Review: Kate Tempest’s Wasted”

  1. How unfortunate the last paragraph of this review is. I thought the play was all inclusive. The play says a lot more than just a trip to ikea and whether you’re posh or not.

    1. You’re absolutely right, it does say a lot more than that. The last paragraph was a (clearly failed) attempt at humour based on the fact that it felt like the play appealed to a certain set of people. I’m not saying middle-aged middle-class people wouldn’t enjoy it, or that people who populate posh East London clubs wouldn’t get it. I was trying to say that it was the references to things like IKEA on a comedown and being unsure about theatre, or stealing from Tescos when you’re thirteen that give it a very specific feel, that made me feel like one of ‘them’ in a world full of ‘us’. The fact that the play was willing to make fun of itself was one of the highlights.
      I’m sorry this last paragraph appeared so reductive to you.

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