Louise Farnall gets immersed in some third years’ house
Scenes of a Domestic Nature from Drama Society is a collection of 9 short performances, from monologues to scenes with three people. Set in a ‘real North London flat’, it promised to be an intimate and immersive look into the private lives so often unseen in everyday life, especially in conventional theatre. More than anything else I was curious to see how anything being set in someone’s flat would work, logistically and dramatically. I was also pleasantly surprised by strong acting talent and the coordination of different audiences, even with a few issues with overall consistency.
My favourite scenes were those which added dark humour to something much more mundane. Bex Parker-Smith had a gripping energy in ‘The Surprising Germination of Andrea Fitzgerald’, and I loved the humour in ‘The Woman Who Cooked’ with Ola Forman and Miranda M-ev. Both scenes were well directed, funny and serious when they needed to be, even though I found it a little awkward to laugh out loud in an audience with 6 people.
I also very much enjoyed ‘An Improbable Family’ as one of the more moving moments, with Mercedes Bromwich and Alisha Iyer portraying one of the most convincing couples of the evening. Technically, the scenes were quite ambitious considering the lack of lighting rigs in a student flat, and the use of simultaneous screens showing stage directions in ‘Am I Saying Anything?’ by Sophia Siddiqui was effective, if a little distracting at times.
Overall, the promised immersion worked insofar as we weren’t in an actual theatre, comfortably and anonymously sat in the dark. We were extremely close to the actors, occasionally being physically moved out of the way in the process of rifling through a drawer, giving the impression that we were almost part of the conversation, just watching two people have a chat. This helped in terms of naturalistic staging, as the performers didn’t have to concern themselves with projecting across a wide space or constantly turning their faces towards us, and there was a sense of familiarity implied from the intimacy of being set predominantly in bedrooms.
Despite the literally ‘domestic’ setting however, I wasn’t completely sold on the immersion of the piece. There was too much disparity between the moods of each scene to really find a cohesive vision, or leave me with some form of greater understanding of domestic life. This might be the result of combining works from different authors, with different directorial visions, but I don’t think the whole event really struck as anything more than a very separate collection of theatre, the biggest outlier being the scene set outside, the topic of which was anything but domestic (despite some of the best writing as an original piece from Rosanna Ellul).
This separation wasn’t entirely helped by the atmosphere between scenes. I didn’t feel that clapping to signify the end of a scene was entirely necessary; it broke up the theatrical experience and made us lose any tension that had been created in the previous 10 minutes, creating a disparity between the immersion into domesticity and normal theatre. There were also several issues with sound from the wrong scenes carrying into different rooms, which was occasionally distracting from the piece I was watching at the time.
That being said, it was an interesting theatrical experience, if not the striking discussion of humanity that I had hoped for. The evening was meticulously planned, without too many pauses stood in a corridor and always being directed by a helpful usher, and there was no weak link in the acting, every scene being performed with conviction and awareness of the text. I would recommend going to see this as an example of great student acting in an unusual space, a successful departure from Drama Society’s traditional performing style, and an opportunity to raise money for Solace Women’s Aid, a charity supporting victims of domestic abuse.
Learn more about the show here.
Photos: Joanna Harker Shaw