A Night of Gritty Theatre: ‘The Usual Suspects’

Find out what The Tab’s verdict was on UCLU Drama Society’s current production ‘The Usual Suspects’

Garage Theatre Workshop London Tab the tab london The Usual Suspects uclu drama society University College London

It was an extremely brave decision by Director Dan Garber to put on a stage adaptation of the highly successful film ‘The Usual Suspects’, especially when the only other known attempt flopped. Nevertheless, the cast tackled the violent and thrilling plot with enthusiasm and determination, making for quite an entertaining night of gritty theatre.

Picture: Marios Koutsakos

For an opening night that coincided with Halloween there was a pretty decent turnout for the production, and most of the audience was made up of people who were returning after seeing the director’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ last year. Always a good sign when people come back for more.

This production takes place after a ship has been attacked with only two survivors: a hospitalised Hungarian and a cripple. The investigating inspector interrogates the cripple in order to piece together the bloody events leading up to the violent attack, but as the play progresses all is not as it originally seems, resulting in an exciting, dramatic and shocking denouement.

The most striking feature of the production on entering the theatre was the layout of the stage and the seating. Far from the usual and conventional seating we’re used to in a theatre where the audience lines on side of the back of the theatre and faces the performance, there was seating on either side with the action taking place in between. The stage was split into three sections: the ship on one side and the inspector’s office on the other both representing reality, with the staging in the middle representing the inspector’s imagination of events.

Picture: Marios Koutsakos

The lighting was simple but effective. Most of the scenes took place under a regular white wash and the protagonist delivered his soliloquys to the audience under a spot light. For particularly violent or dramatic scenes however, for example when cars or the ship were set on fire, the lighting symbolically reflected the change in mood with hot reds being used.

As for the music, the five-piece band of a clarinet, oboe, cello and two violins delivered Yiannis G.Koutsakos’ original score extremely well. The music was haunting and tense, suitably creating a dramatic atmosphere fitting of the events of the play.

The level of acting on display was generally very good. Some lines were a little rushed in the overexcitement of opening night, and others were lost amongst the shouting in particularly heated exchanges in some scenes, but the performers delivered the emotionally charged lines well. A few accents were also a little suspect and could have been more polished, but overall the actors put on a fine performance.

Elias Court was wonderfully convincing as cripple Verbal Kint, and manages to both captivate the audience and keep on the edge of their seats guessing until the very end when the twist is finally revealed. Ben Blackburn as Inspector Kujan was also extremely convincing, and I was particularly impressed by his ability to switch so comfortably between calm questioning and explosive interrogation. He played the obsessive lawman with such command which was perfectly balanced against Court’s nervous and jittery Verbal.

Picture: Marios Koutsakos

Of the rest of the cast, Killian Redden as Dean Keaton was perhaps a little less commanding or convincing than some of the other performers, but by the second act he had settled in well to his character torn between continuing on his new lawful existence or falling back into his old crooked ways, and later trying to hold the rest of the criminals together when things start to go wrong. Caspar Cech-Lucas as Michael McManus and Guido Cavaciuti as Nico Fenster also made a fantastic and at times amusing double act. Cech-Lucas often appeared quite disturbed and maniacal, which was a nice dynamic to the team of criminals. A special mention and immense credit is also deserved by Luke Seabright who impressively learnt and delivered all of his lines in Hungarian for his role despite not being a native speaker.

Overall this is a production more for lovers of grit and violence than humour. The plot is disturbingly brilliant, with twists and turns in every scene and drama and suspense in every dialogue. With a wonderfully shocking twist at the end, of you haven’t seen the film you’ll be absolutely astounded by the production’s thrilling climax. Whilst there are a few issues that do need to be ironed out, this is definitely a play worth going to see.

UCLU Drama Society’s ‘The Usual Suspects’ runs from 31October–2 November at The Garage Theatre Workshop. Performances start at 7.30pm, doors open at 7pm. Entry £3