SEBASTIAN FULLER ST ARROMAN thinks this production has some way to go.
ADC Theatre, 11 PM, April 7th – 10th, £7/6.
Sam Grabiner’s first play, Stiff!, is a good concept tarnished by a myriad of problems, that tells the story of two men who are for some reason both friends and attempting to break the law – judging by one of their reactions – for the first time.
It’s not so much that the play was bad as much as it just failed to be good. Labelled as a comedy drama, it was neither funny nor emotional as both aspects attempted to compete against each other for realisation. The jokes were few and far between, and the forced light hearted atmosphere that tried to accommodate for them only served to prevent any of the tension or character development required for a good drama.
The graveyard setting was original if the characters were not. Lennie from Of Mice and Men made a cameo as Charlie, who blundered around after Frank: a delinquent that was neither manipulative nor secretly caring enough to explain his interest in Charlie. Molly – unknowingly Charlie’s love interest – stumbled inconsistently between being fragile and cunning and all parties seem to take to the idea of murder so lightly that we are left wondering if we’re meant to care either.
The most glaring flaw in the play would have to have been the dissipation of Molly’s mother’s affair, which, after being mentioned to have (humorous, sort of) connections with the gravediggers and sparking a fire between her and Charlie, was simply forgotten about in the spirit of ‘Frank is a dick’. The scene changes – shipping forecasts played out over arbitrary levels of lighting – drew focus to only a minor character’s occasional hobby, and dragged on the pace of the play, and the mother’s crossword answers made very little sense in the absence of a newspaper.
It had redeeming qualities too though, the most directly noticeable being the wonderful aesthetic impact of the whole thing. Dust rattling off the gravedigger’s backs throughout the performance gave a nice ambient effect, the set was lovely, and the opening scene was as strong as it was intriguing, with characters throwing dirt and moderately good jokes at each other from offstage. Archie Henderson and Adrian Gray gave exceptional performances throughout, Mr Gregory (Hugh Stubbins) was great fun, and Frank’s character, if desperate for backstory, was solid and entertaining to watch.
Grabiner’s play has a lot of rough edges, but with a lot of sandpapering could be turned into a lovely shiny little rock.
Also, not one ‘stiff’ pun. Like, seriously. Not a single dick joke at all…