Theatre Roundup: Week 7
Our anonymous reviewer tackles insanity and surrealism this week…
Waiting for Godot – Raving Mask Theatre Company
Waiting for Godot is an unforgiving play to stage – the existential bleakness, the circuitous dialogue and a structure where, as Estragon ironically references ‘nothing happens’. Raving Mask however, chose to focus on the realistic relationships between the characters and the rapid line delivery aided the audience in navigating Beckett’s twists and turns with humour and empathy.
The set design perfectly complimented the play’s minimalism, amplifying the symbolism of the few props and ensuring that every element from the dusty road, to the forlorn tree and the worn costumes all contributed to an air of ultimate futility.
Nevertheless, what set this production apart was the individual characterisation of all four protagonists. Regional accents made a comeback and it was wonderful to see how each character had meticulously considered their tone, gait and posture, with Skelton’s Vladimir exuding an agitated energy, in contrast to Forde’s lethargic Estragon. The camaraderie between Skelton and Forde brought out much of the comedy in Beckett’s script and whilst perhaps a little more could have been made of their physical infirmities, their mannerisms and repeated routines (especially the hat sequence) were absolutely faultless in re-asserting their fundamental dependency on one another.
Oscillating between cruelty and suavity, Harrison’s ‘Pozzo’ was an unnerving figure, particularly when barking his ‘up Pig!’ commands to Train, whose physicality was a horrifying spectacle, making his breathtakingly swift monologue a revelation.
In summary, Raving Mask’s production of such iconic work magnificently catches the despair and comedy at the heart of Waiting for Godot and it is credit to all that the performance seemed so effortlessly natural and original.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Hild Bede Theatre
To tackle a play which is based on a seminal novel, which spawned a hugely successful film is, to say the least, a bit tricky. HBT attempted this feat valiantly but not, I would say, completely satisfactorily.
The lead two characters are complex but, on the whole, portrayed well. Lily Morgan’s Nurse Ratched is suitably cold and severe, though I think this severity could have been taken further to highlight the malevolence of the character. Similarly, Edward Wheatley gives an enjoyable performance as McMurphy, and there are some wonderful moments of tension between him and Morgan, but I felt the part on the whole demands a more energetic approach, which perhaps would have been realised with more time to rehearse.
For me, stronger performances came from Ben Morris’ sympathetic ‘Billy Bibbit’ and Jordan Millican’s neurotic ‘Harding’, though Millican’s lack of American accent did feel a little incongruous. However, the stand out performance came from Rory Barnes as ‘Chief Bromden’, commanding the audience’s attention through his impassioned speech in near-faultless accent.
In general, the cast seemed to comprise a series of good individual performances as opposed to a united whole, problematic in a piece that relies heavily on ensemble. I didn’t believe that the characters, whilst admirably formed, were inherently insane all of the time, which is crucial for such a play. Also, despite some good comedic moments, I felt that much of the dialogue was played for laughs, often working well but occasionally uncomfortable due to the menacing undertones of the piece. That said, in general, the innovative staging of the piece in the round did mean that the audience were drawn into the action throughout, which must be commended.
Overall, I did enjoy my evening in Caedmon Hall, but felt a little more nuance would have turned this good performance into a great one.