Theatre Roundup: Week 8
Our anonymous reviewer has been rushed off their feet, reviewing 3 different productions from the last week.
Merrily We Roll Along – DULOG
Merrily We Roll Along follows the lives of three friends trying to make it big. The twist? The plot is told backwards.
Technical aspects were successful in emphasising the three decades of American history and added to the storytelling making the plot told in reverse easier to follow. The music was well executed by musical director Jessy Croghan, tackling Sondhiem’s extremely complex score with much gusto.
There was wonderful chemistry between the three leads creating a believable long lasting friendship. Simon Lynch took on the main role of Frank and successfully realised the essentially flawed and brooding nature of the character, although at times this felt slightly under-portrayed and stilted. In contrast, Jordan Carlton’s hilarious portrayal of the extremely likeable Charley was amusing yet grasped the depth of the character’s unfulfilled dreams. However, the glue which cemented the trio was Mary, played by Jess Christy, who flourished in her role, encapsulating Mary’s cutting sarcasm and wit, although her American accent did slip on occasion.
For me, Lucy Rowlanes and Isabelle Horler stood out and deserve much credit for their wonderful vocal performances and ability to grasp complete characterisation. However, there were several occasions where certain chorus members were distinctly lacking intention in their line delivery and singing. Therefore the play lost focus at times, especially in some of the sung transitions.
Perhaps not DULOG’s best work, but director Ros Bell should take great pride in what she has created. Merrily We Roll Along is certainly worth a watch, and ensures that you roll out of the theatre with a bittersweet smile on your face.
The Tempest – Collingwood Woodplayers
Putting a show as complex as ‘The Tempest’ together in two weeks is not an easy task for any theatre company – unfortunately for the Collingwood Woodplayers, this was a fact that showed throughout their performance.
The quality of acting varied throughout: although I felt that Cole Sims understood the role of Prospero, his long monologues became a bore without any movement. Eleanor Thompson, playing Miranda, gave a wonderfully heartfelt performance, but was lost in the open-air without any projection: playing outdoors is not an easy job, and lines can be lost easily (especially when your speaker system is playing sounds of a tempestuous storm perhaps-too-loudly) – fortunately however, most of the company spoke clearly, and this is a matter easily fixed.
Perhaps the most promising member of the cast was Lauren Hitchman, in the role of Ariel: her fluidity and movement made a welcome change, and she held an entertaining stage presence. Like many other cast members though, Hitchman had a tendency to pre-empt her lines and start speaking before her accompanying actors had entirely finished their thoughts.
At times there was a lack of clarity, in that the actors did not appear to understand the meaning behind the lines and thus did not capture the correct emotional emphasis. Furthermore, the actors did not fully establish a clear distinction between happy and hurtful events, which unfortunately made it difficult to follow certain plot threads.
Overall, I enjoyed ‘The Tempest’ insofar as it allowed me to remember some of the beauty of Shakespeare’s writing; unfortunately, the Collingwood Woodplayers just didn’t bring it to life.
Twelfth Night – Castle Theatre Company
Open-air Shakespeare is one of the many joys of summer and the Castle’s Fellows’ Gardens was the perfect venue for CTC’s Twelfth Night, with spectators watching the performance in the beautiful garden while enjoying picnics and Pimms.
The director set the performance in the 1930’s, incorporating period attire of boater hats and blazers. The effective use of props, also relevant to the time period, culminated in an amusing and creative use of croquet mallets for the duel between Andrew Aguecheek (Alex Prescot) and Viola, whose androgynous disguise and sincere nature was skillfully portrayed by Jenny Walser.
Prescot, along with Phillipe Bosher, David Knowles and Ellis-Anne Dunmall, provide comic relief and some laugh out loud moments in the second act as the play’s merrymakers, adding to the light-hearted feel of Shakespearean comedy. In contrast, Alex Morgan’s lovesick Duke is an excellent counterpart to the stand out performance from Daisy Cummins, who gave a nuanced depiction of the haughty and self-indulgent Olivia.
Admittedly, the second half was less polished, with a few missed cues and fluffed lines, which detracted somewhat from the effect of the acting. However, this is understandable given the short amount of time the cast had to rehearse in the period after exams and I have no doubt that, with more practice, the performance will be more refined by the time the cast tours this summer.
Overall, pn the night, I found CTC’s performance of Twelfth Night, a thoroughly enjoyable experience of Shakespearean comedy in the Castle grounds on a warm Durham evening.