“Dull, confusing, and ultimately frustrating.” ABI BENNETT struggles to be kind about a show whose ambition misfired.
Corpus Playroom, Tue 6th – Sat 10th Nov, 9.30pm, £5/6
Dir. Isobel Cohen
Ambition separated from execution is nothing. Kind’s problem is that its execution is simply non-existent, despite being based on ambitious and interesting ideas. The resultant mess is dull, confusing, and ultimately frustrating.
The writer, Isobel Cohen, is clearly fascinated with her location, St Kilda, and with the sea birds around which her story revolves. Social history, on the other hand, does not seem to be her strong point. The script is riddled with inaccuracies, which were glaring even to me – and I know practically nothing about Scottish history.
The programme told us that the islands had been evacuated by 1930, but the look of the piece was pure 1940’s London, and the recurring song, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, was written in 1936. And anachronism struck again in Tom Stuchfield’s wonderfully modern watch. These inaccuracies are simply sloppy and lazy, and could have been avoided with even the most cursory glance at Wikipedia. They resulted in a production beleaguered by a lack of care and refinement.
Student drama does not often have a lot of resources. Kind, however, did – but this didn’t help. The show’s attempts at puppetry fell flat because they consistently overstretched themselves, and the best moments relied on imagination rather than resources. An oystercatcher made with only a sock and an orange candle was beautiful in its simplicity. Similarly, a cormorant with black bin liner wings was well conceived and executed. Apart from these, the puppetry was lacklustre, especially those that strived for complexity. Had the show embraced the simplicity shown by the oystercatcher, the puppetry would have been much more successful.
The play was marred by poor directorial decisions. The cliff, constructed out of ladders, could have been beautiful, had it not been placed in the front corner of the stage. This meant that the rest of the action was forced right to the back, where the performances’ nuances were lost (I’m charitably assuming they were there to be seen). It also meant that none of the action on the cliff could be seen by any of the audience; we could (just about) hear what was going on, but could only see the back of the actors’ heads. Scene changes were similarly poorly considered. They took forever. Low lighting was kept on during the scene changes, as though they were trying to make something of them. But they didn’t. They were just slow, ponderous and noisy. The set was simple, but it somehow took forever to change between scenes, meaning that any momentum that had been built up in the previous scene was lost.
On the whole the acting was mixed. There were a couple of good performances, with Emily Dance’s Earnait the most deserving of mention. Rosie Skan’s Skildir also showed promise, though she was a bit skittish at times, rushing through dialogue that would have benefited from a more measured delivery. This was undoubtedly due to first night nerves, and her performance could develop into something impressive. Other performances ranged from middling to poor, with much of the characterisation breathtakingly one-dimensional.
The production merits its one star through a couple of decent performances, and through the ambition of its ideas. Unfortunately, most of the ideas were simply badly executed, and the production suffered greatly as a result.