Izzy Cutts reviews the three plays performed by the newest drama kids in UCL
UCLU drama society tested out the new performance space on the Japanese roof garden with this year’s first production. It consisted of three plays, performed by freshers, put together in a week and showcasing lots of new talent in some very interesting, situational, short plays. However, I use the word ‘short’ tentatively; with each play running over an hour, the ridiculous duration rather overshadowed what could have been a great night of entertainment. All of the plays seemed well rehearsed and suited their simpler surroundings, focusing on intense dialogue rather than great action. Although I might suggest that they were performed in the wrong order, as putting the slowest and most serious work at the end of two very fast-paced and dynamic pieces made a long night feel even longer.
Line by Israel Horovitz, directed by Pavlos Christodoulou
Line focused on five people queuing in a line that was never contextualised (all we knew was that it wasn’t a line for Spamalot!) Starting out as an everyday scene, it quickly descended into anarchy, displaying a spectrum of human behavior and ending with a near-death by Mozart and the line being eaten. I really enjoyed Bel Parker’s performance; a devious, Mozart-crazy kid and the only character that breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the audience. She was very committed and really used the mystery of the part to produce something enigmatic.
Comedy was key for balancing the intensity and complex social ideas, traditionally the most difficult thing to get right, but the cast did well going between the absurd and the serious. However, they needed to leave more time for laughter and recognition in such a dense play. Sex also plays a huge part in the play; initially the running offstage and making sex noises felt clumsy and too comic, but by the end their interpretations of sexuality felt more mature and believable.
Of the three plays this felt the least rehearsed, there were many obvious slips and they lost a lot of the energy required for such a dynamic piece of dialogue. There was a considerable lack of reactions and facial expressions for a piece that focused on the dialogue and interaction between characters. Albeit, it was definitely a provoking piece that showed off the actor’s ranges well: it was so absurd that it was engrossing.
Beyond Therapy by Christopher Durang, directed by Vincenzo Monachello
Beyond Therapy was a farce set mainly in an ‘existential restaurant’ where the waiters never turn up. It is a world of insanity, where everyone has a therapist who is as equally insane, and no thought is left unsaid.
The two leads, played by Lola Szczotarska and Ruari Lane, carried off their high-energy parts admirably and bounced off each other really well. Charlie Allen had the smarmy therapist down to a fine art and demonstrated a seamless transition to angry patient. I particularly loved Ross Tomlinson’s portrayal of the long suffering lover Bob, who having been built up in our imaginations a long time before his arrival on stage, was everything I wanted him to be (and more), plus he balanced the character’s psychopathic edge perfectly.
However, there were some occasions where really good lines were thrown away in the midst of the chaos and at times it felt rushed. Nevertheless, the comedy was very self-aware and the cast really pulled off a great feat making such a chaotic and absurd production genuinely funny.
Two by Jim Cartwright, directed by Eddie-Joe Robinson
By this point in the evening I had nearly lost the will to live, let alone watch another play, but the evening carried on nonetheless.
Two transported us to a Northern pub on a night of culmination in many of the local’s lives. The play was a series of monologues and duologues exploring relationships that alternated from comedic to heart wrenching. There was an interesting range of regional accents, but in fairness, everyone who attempted an accent did pretty well. The start felt flat even though it was supposed to be two people rushed off their feet in a crammed pub; already the piece was obviously slower than the two before it, and I don’t think being placed last helped.
I was really moved by Charlotte Holtum’s testimonial of how it feels to be ‘the other woman’; it was a really capturing performance of someone beyond her years. Miranda Evan’s depiction of a worn down, lonely, old woman was quite hard to get into after the last two absurd hours, and although she brought plenty of emotion to the role I found the unconvincing age took away from the poignancy of the words.
An audience favourite was Matthew Neubauer, who played the boyfriend of a woman who wanted a big man (something he unfortunately was not). He came in with fresh energy and amazing comic timing, which really picked up the piece. This was quickly contrasted with the entrance of a very abusive couple, played very sharply, it was amazing how quickly they changed the audience’s mood, and Charlie Macnamara’s slap had the audience on edge, (pretty impressive considering we were three hours in.)
While I comment on the duration of these pieces, it did make for a very interesting comparison of situational dramas, and still managed to capture my attention.Yet I feel they might have been better enjoyed on separate occasions. Two demonstrated a diverse selection of characters and situations, perfect for a freshers’ play, and like the other two, it really built dramatically.
All Image Credits: Danté Kim