DDF Day 1: Reviewed
Caroline Gaunt enjoys new writing from Dom Riley, Timmy Fisher and Nick Waskowycz
Two Days from Now by Dom Riley
Dom Riley’s Two Days from Now is a very strong offering. In the story of Craig (Joe Burke), who unwittingly discovers time travel in his student house, the production manages to mingle comedy and pathos, largely through the excellent Burke’s command of the script. Although a little awkward at the beginning, Burke never overplayed his character’s many moments of despair, which as a result never felt forced or ceased to make an impact.
There was a conscious dichotomy between the hospital scenes staged on the apron, characterised by Burke’s poignant musings, and the banterous nature of the scenes with Craig’s housemates (of whom Chaz Pitman’s laddish Chris stood out) and Burke controlled these shifts of tone with consummate skill, so that the tension was never allowed to drop.
Credit must also be given to Riley in this respect for excellent blocking; the stage was used creatively and effectively, and the actors managed to negotiate it comfortably, particularly when wandering from one realm to the next.
The script is by no means perfect and occasionally errs on the side of the contrived, hindered in this respect by the somewhat anachronistic boxes of pizza and can of baked beans on the apron. However, these are minor criticisms, and even at its most contrived Two Days from Now is always going to appeal to its target audience. The one major criticism I have to make is of sound levels – sound effects were often so loud that dialogue was missed completely, and the sound of pouring rain during the hospital scenes felt like a forced nod to pathetic fallacy. Were the show beginning a four-night run, I would be confident that these issues could be quickly ironed out.
Two Days from Now was the standout offering of the night: with just a little extra tweaking the production could captivate an audience on a longer run, and I commend Riley both as a writer and director for managing to create such an engaging piece of theatre.
Love/Lust by Timmy Fisher
Love/Lust presents us with two sides of a widely differing spectrum. On the one hand the music is beautifully composed, played and sung and with its clearly modern influences, could not fail to appeal to a modern audience. On the other, the narrative is at times shockingly thin: cliché ridden, superficial and contrived by turns, it is impossible for Jamie’s (Timmy Fisher) realisations about his womanising ways or his vows to change seem plausible.
The musical constantly infers a deep discussion on the realities of love but refuses to deliver, and whilst I appreciate that this is difficult in half an hour perhaps, in this case, a subject as universal and complex as love is not the best choice of topic for so short a musical.
Love/ Lust's saving grace is in its music, particularly the astonishing vocal talents of Hannah Howie, whose solo sent shivers down my spine. Timmy Fisher, as Jamie, was also excellent, demonstrating an impressive range, although I found it difficult to reconcile the lad-about-town persona he portrayed through the narrative, complete with a commanding swagger, with the tenderness of the songs.
This kind of discrepancy is what makes Love/Lust ultimately a disappointing production: a musical cannot simply rest on its songs, and whilst these were undeniably exquisite, the dialogue needs an awful lot of work in order to feel plausible and make a viable piece of theatre.
Emeric Fontal by Nick Waskowycz
I can’t truthfully tell you what Emeric Fontal was about because I don’t actually know myself. Whilst the milk-plus-violence motif infers a sort of take on a Clockwork Orange, it might have been something to do with a heinous crime yet to be accomplished, with eternal damnation, or just… cheese.
Nevertheless, the cast didn’t let this apparent lack of meaning put them off, attacking the bizarre script with gusto and stage violence aplenty. However, I didn’t feel that Tim Blore, playing the eponymous lead, was a convincing front man: the script requires Emeric to be at once charismatic and tortured and Blore never quite manages either, although he gets very close.
The problem with his gradual descent into self-hatred (if, indeed, that’s what I was supposed to be watching, with Emeric Fontal you’re never quite sure) was that Blore played with such intensity from the start he left himself no room to grow, and no room to increase the tension – or, crucially, audience interest.
Other cast members fared better: Henry Morris, as Roquefort, was excellent, blending a sense of menace with a smooth, mafia-esque charm, and Adam Kirkbride as Commissioner Vance was unremittingly sardonic throughout. However the cast in its totality never really managed to make up for the holes in the script: with no tangible sense of narrative, and a lack of cohesion between scenes, writer Nick Waskowycz was asking a lot of his actors to maintain audience interest throughout the duration of the play, and this was not going to be accomplished through the occasional burst of violence (or, bizarrely, motown).
Some directorial decisions also fell flat – I’m all for keeping blackouts to a minimum but the cast members doing the scene changes themselves, in full spotlight, felt awkward and clumsy. I commend the cast for committing so totally to the production but the result is still not quite sufficient to produce a solid hour and a half’s entertainment.