Some Explicit Polaroids
ABI BENNETT calls out ‘minimalism born of laziness’, but sees some potential for this show to overcome jitters and confusion.
Corpus Playroom, 22nd-26th February, £5-6
Directed by Anthony Woodman
When the best moment in a play comes inadvertently from an audience member, you know you’re not onto a winner. The covert taking of a real explicit polaroid as Ami Jones first stripped off was the only moment of true comedy in a piece generally lacking in gravitas and depth.
The main problem with the production was simply a complete absence of thought. None of the actors seemed to understand their characters which, no matter how valiant the effort, precluded any emotional depth. Blocking was non-existent, so large tracts of text were performed to the wall. In a play where not much happens except internally, the characters being so bereft of direction and purpose just led to boredom.
Afterwards, I deduced where the problem lay: Anthony Woodman, as Jonathon, was the worst culprit for not understanding what his lines actually meant. To him they appeared to be a hollow spiel he happened to be saying whilst marching nonsensically around the stage. So I was somewhat surprised afterwards to discover that he was also the director: if he had no understanding of his own character, then it would have been impossible for the other actors to construct coherent ones.
Photographs by Milla Basma
The first half was much more watchable than the second, as there were some touches of comedy. Youness Bouzinab was representative of the problems faced by all the actors; his fantastically drugged up go-go dance was a brilliant start, but later efforts were waylaid by a deficiency of directorial support. Had his poignant scenes after Tim’s death been rehearsed in more depth, he could have shone. Even when the actors had succeeded in creating some pathos, they were undermined by poor decisions; Ami Jones’ vulnerable stripper act in seducing Nick was directed into a far corner, and Nikki Moss’s last moments obscured by overloud music.
The set was minimal verging on GCSE; there is no excuse for plastic chairs being covered with varieties of material to represent sofas, especially if scene changes take as long as scenes themselves. I thought we were meant to have grown out of ‘minimalism born of laziness’ by this stage in our education? I liked the idea of photos being projected onto one wall, and they didn’t obscure the actors’ faces as much as I had first feared. Some might call them ‘artistically wanky’, but I think they were effective. Similarly, the soundtrack of 90s music was well-chosen, and struck the right note between nostalgia and cheese.
So why the seemingly generous three stars? This review might seem too harsh to merit so many, but I think this play does have the room to improve. First night jitters were evident, and drawn-out scene changes should be rectified soon. This play is trying to say something, and I think by the end of the run it will realise quite what that is.