Try! Try!

“It reminded me fundamentally why we’re all here…” ABI BENNETT is charmed by an evening of Frank O’Hara.

Abi Bennett change your bedding! flight 115 frank o'hara matilda wnek week 7

Corpus Playroom, 19th November, 8.30pm/9.30pm, £5/6

Dir. Matilda Wnek, Dominic Biddle, Jack Parlett 

Like a shower on a hung-over morning, or the amusing piece of graffiti on a lecture desk, Try! Try! provided much needed solace in an interminable week 7.

It reminded me fundamentally why we’re all here: we love what we study. This was the best present anyone could have given me last night, as winter sets in and essays pile up. It was lovely to see a production motivated by delight in the material rather than anything else. So often in Cambridge you get the feeling that the choice of material is almost secondary, simply a vehicle for the desires of the director or producer. The atmosphere was convivial, more like a poetry reading than a play. You got the feeling they just wanted to share this material they loved, because they felt it needed to be heard. There was no ego or self-interest, only a sincere desire to share.

The language fizzed and popped. It also managed to be lyrically, beautifully hilarious, the audience sometimes surprised at their own mirth. The acting was purposefully sparse, allowing the language to shine. The actors were at their best when they illuminated the human meaning behind the sometimes-obscure language. Very occasionally, there was a sense they didn’t really understand the meaning behind what they were saying, but most of the time the acting was assured but subtle, illustrating the language rather than riding slipshod over it. Matilda Wnek seemed the most at home with the work, best at overcoming the disjunction between playing a whole character and playing up the absurdity of the language.

Despite their obvious love of the work, they weren’t overly reverential. There was a real sense of play with it, whether with the masks in Change your bedding!, or the dangling oversized clouds in Flight 115. They weren’t afraid to make the work their own, to place their own stamp on the proceedings. Along with small introductions to each piece, and the offering of wine (charmingly placed half on stage), the whole evening was warm, welcoming and illuminating. It’s just a shame it was only for one night; something as precious as Try! Try! should be seen by as many people as possible.