Review: The Quick And The Damned

A creative and compelling new piece of writing, finds LOUIS SHANKAR.

Cambridge Corpus Playrooms Drama play Theatre

The Quick And The Damned is a creative and hard-hitting new piece of student writing, from Tom Stuchfield and Guy Clark. Set in the New Mexico desert in the late 17th century, it follows four soldiers camped out – or possibly abandoned – at an outpost. The arrival of a priest sees their world challenged: their purpose, their beliefs, and their hopes.

This is an interesting play. At first I wasn’t convinced: the pacing was erratic; the relationships between the characters seemed false, alternating between great pals and worst enemies. A Week 0 show is a difficult feat; this felt like it needed a bit more work with the actors to polish it.

The script itself was mostly strong. Many of the best lines were reserved for the Friar, although some very quotable ones were shared around. An astonishing, gripping monologue from Olguin – delivered perfectly by Max Roberts – had me holding on to every word. I found there was a bit too much swearing, at times it felt like a rip off of a Tarantino film, but this was (occasionally) used well.

However, I didn’t believe that I was anywhere close to 1680 New Mexico. The dialogue often felt too modern; the agnosticism and questioning of religion didn’t seem 17th century. It felt at times like the characters were plucked from today and dropped in the desert to explore some chosen themes. In the performance, the accents weren’t convincing or consistent: I’m not suggesting Spanish ones but something else was needed.

Perhaps the best aspect was the overall production, though. Wonderfully selected music punctuated the scenes; bare, stark lighting created the blistering desert sun and a calming blue gave us the cold of night. We, the audience, were the desert, the unknown, the fear. We were closing in on the claustrophobic stage, adding to the actors’ paranoia.

With all this said, by the final scene I was gripped. A huge twist turned everything on its end, questioning our assumptions and delivering one hell of a blow. I shan’t spoil anything – see the play for yourself, the audience was far too sparse – but just be warned. And the very final moment…

This play could be fantastic. It’s slightly long and this production wasn’t perfect: it needs revising and possibly recasting. But watch this space. (Well, not this one. The Corpus Playrooms.)

4 stars