REVIEW: Grade Expectations
Robyn Bellinger is entertained by the relatable comedy of Grade Expectations, very much a play by students, for students.
The piece really is summed up by its title’s pun on grades: it’s a comedy linked to studying and, in this case, Cambridge. If you want something that is relatable and will make you laugh then this is the piece for you.
The actors discuss everything from the library to sex. Freshers’ Week to cigarettes. The Van of Life to sex. And more sex. What do all of those things have in common? They are relatable (to a certain extent at least) to students. This is very much a play by students, for students.
Considering that this is a freshers’ play and therefore that many of the actors have not had a lot of time to establish themselves in the Cambridge theatre scene, the whole performance was very strong: lines were delivered with conviction and, when improvised, reacted to without hesitation. It was very hard to see what was improvised (even when the actors directly said it was improvisation, linking to the ‘metatheatre’ aspect of it, the audience was still left doubting whether or not this was the truth).
It is a very fast-paced comedy packed with a lot of very funny moments. Particular praise has to go to the brilliant way that each actor managed to keep a straight face, even when delivering lines that were especially comic – everyone knew what they were doing, despite the ‘controlled chaos’ which the piece constantly referenced. When things went wrong, they went wrong deliberately, to make the audience laugh.
The piece also has many moments of physical comedy, broke up the longer sections of speech and added variety to the show. This is particularly the case when the audience is introduced to ‘The Writer’: I won’t ruin it for you, but it is a great example of slapstick comedy.
Amongst all of this chaos, there was a constant, slightly more serious side to the piece due to ‘Jo-el’ James (not Joel!) who had a very unique style of comedy: he contrasted greatly with the other, larger-than-life characters which made him very enjoyable to watch.
Finally, I have to commend Peter Price, the writer, director and star of the piece, for his consistently comedic performance. He’s a lot of fun to watch and really broke the Fourth Wall – he often sat in the audience and spoke about the scenes that were unravelling in front of us. The audience felt very involved.
It’s hard to review this piece without giving too much away. All I can say is that if you enjoy relatable comedy, which successfully avoids monotony, then this is the piece for you. Laughs guaranteed, especially if you study here.