Saturday, 25 October 2014

Review: 'Lord of the Flies'

DramaSoc's production of Lord of the Flies is one in which they should be tremendously proud. From beginning to end, I found myself completely immersed in the play; after the first part, I did not feel like I was merely watching actors, but that I was watching the genuine events unfold.

Lord of the Flies follows the story of a group of schoolchildren, who find themselves trapped on a beach after a plane crash. Their attempts to create their own society fail dramatically, and the subsequent events make the audience question what it means to be human; what 'human nature' really entails.
As you may have gathered, it certainly is not a play to see if you are looking to be cheered up; indeed, the play is incredibly dark and soul-searching, but that does not stop it from being entertaining. The terror I experienced at the events before me was only heightened by the incredible work of the lighting engineers. The lights were used exceptionally to transform the small stage into the island where the story is set, with a depth and sense of distance that DramaSoc should be proud to have achieved.

I also cannot give high enough praise to the actors, whose skills upon the stage led me to truly relate to all of the characters. I was genuinely heartbroken, and genuinely appalled, at certain moments of the play, as I felt the emotions portrayed by these artists cut right into me. My only criticism - and it is a minor one - would be that, during a soliloquy given by the character of Simon, I couldn't really understand him over his sobs.

Besides that, the play was astonishing - I do not believe that I have ever seen a play that has more engrossed, appalled, and struck me to the core. Lord of the Flies is a must-see - it will take you on a rollercoaster of emotion, and may even lead you to question the very nature of your being.

By James Aston

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Review: 'Journey's End'

Based on his real experiences of the trenches, R. C. Sherriff writes Journey’s End as a gripping yet humanised glimpse into just a few days of living on the front line. When young officer Raleigh joins his childhood hero and family friend Stanhope in the trenches, three years of experience in the nightmare of warfare has entirely changed his hero who has turned to whisky to cope with the trauma. It is a moving, thought provoking piece, performed admirably by the York DramaSoc cast. 

On entry into the barn, I felt like I had taken steps back through time into a war bunker. The space had been transformed into the dark and dirty hell of the trenches, and I was impressed by the great detail in which the crew had gone into in order to create an authentic looking set. It was clear that a lot of time and thought had gone into this, and credit must be given to everyone involved in this superb recreation. The seating was set very close to the stage, which invites the audience to become part of the action, making the emotions running through the play cut deeper and feel more intense. 

The play itself was very well performed. Whilst it seems slightly lacking in plot line (which actually appears to be representative of the pace of the life in the trenches) the play makes up for this in the beautifully written script and it’s representation of each character and the wonderful relationships between them. Throughout the two hours spent in the barn, I became absorbed in the play and felt so much sympathy towards each of the characters, that some of the most intense scenes left me with a sickening lump in my throat.

All of the characters were flawlessly performed, and the development of the relationships between each of the officers had clearly been a main priority when rehearsing this play. Special mention must be given to Sam Hill who played Stanhope and Josh Welch who played Raleigh, for their outstanding and heart-breaking performance of this tragic friendship. Sam Hill flawlessly portrayed the traits of his complex character; a world-weary, bitter captain with an intense heart. Ross Cronshaw also played an excellent Osborne, successfully portraying the level headed father-figure of the group of men. 

However, amidst the grave wartime setting, comic characters like Trotter (James Dixon) and Mason (Tim Kelly) provided an ongoing sense of continuing everyday life, which made the situation feel real, a significant contrast to the intense seriousness of much of the rest of the play. Both characters were well performed, adding a light relief and a humanistic feel which R. C. Sherriff wanted to create with this play.
Unlike many wartime productions, Journey’s End is authentic and honest. We are presented not with over glorified battles and super heroes, but real men, real lives and real emotion. Edd Riley has directed an incredibly touching production which should not be missed. A fantastic start to the term, I highly recommend this performance. 

By Sinead Hammond
URY Speech Theatre Liaison

Friday, 17 January 2014

Review: 'Pantsoc Presents Cinderella!'

By Ben Bason & George Lane

"Quite a lot of genres packed into one" -Ben Bason

"The first thing that struck me was the size of the gave a real community feel" -Ben Bason

"I was amazed at the quality of the production" -George Lane

"All the jokes were relevant and up-to-date" -Ben Bason

"Izzy Austin as Cinderella was absolutely brilliant...the quality of her singing was amazing...some magical moments from her" -Ben Bason & George lane

"As opening night there were a few technical problems with mics not wasn't an issue for the dialogue but for songs they were occasionally drowned out by the band"                  -Ben Bason & George Lane

"Gamma played by Ed Jones was absolutely of the stand out performances"         -Ben Bason

"A good 4 stars but by Friday and Saturday performances i'm sure it will be reaching 5 stars"    -Ben Bason & George Lane 

For the full review listen to YorWorld this Sunday (19th January) from 2pm

Still unsure about whether to see the show, then check out our exclusive preview here on the URY player

Friday, 22 November 2013

Review: 'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change'

By Emma Gibbs & David Brennan

“The set piece was fantastic…it looked really lush for what the drama barn is, which is a very small black box. They had used a lot of soft furnishings to make it very comfortable for you to be in there” -Emma Gibbs

“I think the only thing that let down this production, and it’s the tiniest little nit-picky thing I could think of was just  the length in between scene changes but because you had the orchestra there on stage you end up watching them in these periods” -David Brennan

“You were always engaged” -Emma Gibbs

”Lilly cooper played a brilliant geek” “That was hilarious!...I felt like her performance was particularly strong” -David Brennan & Emma Gibbs

“I think everyone in the cast did a brilliant job” -David Brennan

“All of the actors were so good they could have performed the whole thing just in white or black and just by  the way the moved themselves and the accents they were putting on I could’ve believed anything “-Emma Gibbs

“I would definitely recommend everyone to go see it…its extremely entertaining, beautiful to watch and something I haven’t seen done in the Barn before” -David Brennan

For the full review listen to YorWorld this Sunday ( 24th Novemeber) from 2pm.

Still unsure about whether to see the show check out our exclusive preview here on the URY Player.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Review: 'GamePlan'

By Joseph D'angelo

GamePlan is a tricky play. A complex blend of outright bizarre humour and genuinely provocative drama, the play can throw an audience into an uncomfortable ride of emotions; a ride which needs to be carefully measured and paced in order to be effective. At times during Alex Baldry’s production of GamePlan, this was perfect, but occasionally this crucial element lapsed and the audience were thrown into an unintentional feeling of unease.

Alan Ayckbourn’s play relays the financial struggles of the Saxon family, comprising of Sorrel (Sophie Mann) and her mother, Lynette (Flora Ogilvy). In the midst of having a runaway husband and losing her job, Lynette struggles with a smoking problem, exacerbated by the tumultuous relationship she has with her daughter and with her daughter’s dimwitted but well intentioned friend, Kelly (Maria Terry). When the situation becomes dire and Lynette threatens to move the family out of London, Sorrel hatches a plan to make a quick buck, but this plan unfortunately involves her selling her body.

At the core of this play is the dynamic of family life. Flora Ogilvy seems to be in her prime when playing an older woman, and pulls of forty two year old Lynette with a finesse and subtlety that leads you never to doubt the fact that she is Sorrel’s mother. That said, she truly shines in moments of heated dispute and tension, and a scene which has her sat beside her daughter on the sofa in silence, angrily puffing away at a cigarette following yet another domestic, is one of the most touching and beautiful in the play.

Much too should be said of the relationship between Sorrel and Kelly, which at every moment seemed entirely genuine and  showed something of the bond the cast must have achieved when working on this production. Maria Terry’s performance as Kelly acts as the comedic core of the play, and nearly every one of her lines had me in stitches. Terry managed a perfect blend of humility and comic timing in her role, something that is very difficult to achieve, and her performance stood out because of this. Also impressive were the comedic bit-parts in the form of the chillingly disturbing yet hilarious client, Leo (James Dixon) and the appearance of a ridiculous police duo (Gabrielle James and Stevie Jeram), whose presence added a note of sinister hilarity with Jeram’s tempestuous changes of moods and James’s impressive spiel of biblical quotations.

And the play on a whole followed a similar theme. The moments of comedy (a scene at the end of the first act where Sorrel meets her first ‘client’ is truly hilarious) are what shine in the play, albeit at the sacrifice of the more dramatic moments of the play. The pacing of the comedy is almost pitch-perfect but is at odds with the scenes that bookend it. Rapturous farce is almost immediately turned into sincere drama and this transition doesn’t work as the audience aren’t given time to adjust. Nor are the actors, who move into scenes of emotion still smiling and reeling from the explosion of comedy just before. This put Sophie Mann as Sorrel into a difficult position of keeping the play on course, a job which she attempted admirably but failed to pull off. Despite this, her portrayal of a sixteen year old girl in turmoil was accurate and, at times, touching.

The confusing blend of drama and comedy was not aided by what appeared to be at times bizarre music choices. When entering the Barn, the audience were treated to the Spice Girls blaring out over a perfectly recreated apartment (once again showing the versatility of that little black space!) complete with Lino floor tiles and a kitchen. In moments like this, music served to create a 90s sort of feel to the production, aided by the use of carefully selected props from the era. But at times it intruded and jarred the lines between comedy and drama further, such as the use of a well known ‘Steps’ song to accompany a, well, tragedy.
Although confused about what it is, GamePlan is still an impressive piece of theatre and the scenes of comedy are truly brilliant and will have you laughing long after you’ve left the barn. If not for this alone, it is absolutely worth a visit. 

You can listen to Joseph's review by visiting the URY Player

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Review: 'The Woman in Black'

By James Metcalf

The Woman in Black is, by now, a piece of familiarity to most people. Whether as a novel, play, or film, many of us have experienced the terror first hand (or at least been told about it by a wide-eyed friend), but not even that will prepare you for the production by Robin Herford at York’s Theatre Royal.

The play begins on the well-trodden boards of an empty stage, with a single figure reading from a manuscript in a frightened, mouse-like voice. He is interrupted by a much younger man, who condescends to give the man advice on projection and energy (‘for the sake of his audience’). I won’t give it all away, but these early scenes are humorous and light, which serves only to break down any defences you might have built against the terror you are sure to experience later on. They each play out the story of Gothic melancholy, taking on the roles of peripheral characters, until the one figure they could not draw upon by themselves is re-awakened for the audience.

There were screams a-plenty, rest assured, yet the performances of Julian Forsyth, who played Arthur Kipps, and Antony Eden, who played the gentleman acting the part of the lawyer in his youth, did not suffer for this. They were clearly so used to it, as their delivery did not break for an instant. Every time the wasted face of the woman in black appeared, or the repetitive and unnerving rhythm of the rocking chair took hold, shrieks could be heard throughout the theatre, but their faces were immovable; as though they really were in Eel Marsh House.

What was perhaps more unnerving than this supposed tranquillity or the very presence of the woman herself, was the sound effects, designed by Gareth Owen. His rocking chair, music box, pony and trap, and, of course, the scream of the dying child in the marsh, were ever present and unpredictable, to the extent that the audience did not want to turn around, lest the woman be there, her face looming above their heads. And Kevin Sleep’s lighting was simple yet effective in its creation of the shade cast by branches, and the moon through an open window, which, when added to the sound and the incredibly dynamic set design, courtesy of Michael Holt, altered the experience immeasurably. The three-dimensional staging, partitioned by a gauze curtain and a staircase, and the eerie atmosphere created by a twilit stage and sporadically sudden creaking transformed a horror movie into a dramatic, theatrical experience that belongs within touching distance.

Brilliant acting, staging, and direction aside, the adaptation of a relatively short novel (by Susan Hill) for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt is a work of no small genius. His way of setting up the play as a piece of theatre in itself seemed to ask a little too much to ask of the audience; yet the leap was not all that far. In fact, once the exposition had taken place, the audience accepted the new premise and promptly forgot about it, becoming embroiled in the drama and spectacle of an expertly enacted performance. As Forsyth and Eden intermittently narrated each scene when necessary, alternately leaving the rest to the audience’s imagination, there was never a moment in which we were lost or confused; in fact, the play was so easy to understand that I personally felt present in the marshes just outside the small, haunted township of isolated Crythin Gifford.

Whether you’ve read the novel or seen the film, or even if you’ve seen the play before, Herford’s production of The Woman in Black is something to see. The acting is immediately engaging, the performers are instantly likeable, and the sound, lighting, and staging are so expertly practised, they are made to look easy. In the tremendously impressive setting of the Theatre Royal, this is an experience that is immediately successful, being both exactly what you’d expect, as well as an awful lot more besides.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Review: 'God of Carnage'

God of Carnage, written by Yasmina Reza, is a play about two sets of parents having a big argument over an incident that happened between their children at school. The play succeeds in challenging the aura of respectability and solidity of your average middle class family while questioning the ideas of certainty, justice and childhood and the effects that adults can have on children. It is a play with absurdist pacing with spikes of chaos separated by eerie calmness. It is also a play very difficult to get right.

Where the director Rory McGregor triumphs is his obvious talent for getting the most out of his cast. It has become clich├ęd to talk about ‘chemistry’ between actors but Mungo Tatton-Brown, Helena Clark, Max Fitzroy-Stone and Claire Curtis-Ward feed off each other with such ease that the phrase becomes mightily appropriate. God of Carnage is definitely an actor’s play. With such simple set design, the audience relies on the actors to express themselves and to keep the pacing quick and snappy. The moments where Curtis-Ward and Fitzroy-Stone were subtly insulting each other was a joy to behold because of their understated yet savage delivery.

The acting in this play becomes more difficult due to the development each character goes through. At the start, they keep things hidden and feel each other out, playing the part of the concerned parent and part of a stable marriage. The mood changes are often sudden and intense, which is always risking alienating the audience but this play did not suffer from such shortcomings.

McGregor did a fine job at using the bare stage to its full effect. The couches were situated very close to the audience, which created a more intimate feel while the phone was situated far away from everything else, which meant the scene would totally change in dynamic when somebody answered. Though the couches were the focal point, there were times when the characters would disperse, usually during arguments. It meant the play never became stale, which was something the film version could more aptly be accused of. McGregor has outdone Polanski it seems.

God of Carnage is one of the finest plays I’ve seen at the Drama Barn and all four leads are deserving of plaudits. This is exactly the kind of play that DramaSoc should do more often with its interesting characters, short running time and cheap set. It is of little surprise that it has achieved national acclaim and has been entered into the National Student Drama Festival, where I’m sure it will continue to gather admirers.