When you take on a play as famous and beloved as Oscar Wilde’s wonderful comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, you are setting yourself up for a challenge. While the writing can almost carry a production by itself, the actors are competing against Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Judi Dench and Reese Witherspoon in many imaginations, and perhaps David Suchet-in-drag in others. Add to this the fact that the StAge is just not a good space for theatre (at least not when used conventionally), and this production team were giving themselves a very difficult task. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one they could meet.
It is surprisingly rare that Mermaids stages a true comedy in St Andrews, and this production of Patrick Barlow’s play is certainly that. The play has a strange history, as a farce based on an Alfred Hitchcock movie, itself based on an early thriller novel. Even from the promotional images, it was clear this production would be self-aware, revelling in its meta elements and the broad pastiche of a genre well known for being chock full of clichés.
Attending a pantomime as a student in St Andrews is a strange experience. Doing so by oneself is even stranger. Pantomimes are very much a family affair, so being the lone twenty-two-year-old in a sea of mummies, daddies, kiddies and grandparents made me feel slightly like I’d infiltrated enemy lines and was waiting to be discovered as an imposter. Despite this, the excitement in the theatre was palpable, children and adults alike enjoying the festive playlist and getting in the mood for this classic British tradition.
This semester, directors Montse Picado and Krishna Patel bring Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding to the Barron theatre. I spoke with Krishna to see what she had to say about their upcoming production.
For their first production of the new academic year, Mermaids presented us with something a bit different from its usual fare. Tales of our World promised an evening of intimate performance storytelling, bringing together the voices of the past and present in monologues “encompassing the scope of human narratives.”
It is rare that I find myself utterly wanting for words to express my feelings on anything, but Ubu Roi happens to have done just that. Usually, when I go to write a review, I consider the production within the context of all the theatre I have seen in my life. I set it within a certain paradigm, consider what effect it seems to have been aiming for, and try to assess it by the goals which it has set out for itself. This play is so utterly bizarre, so determined not to be analysed by conventional standards, that it is difficult to know by which standards to judge it.
Following their Brexit-based show last year, this semester St Andrews’ devising troupe, BlackBox, took a break from politics to explore Scottish folklore. To the Ocean tells the story of a young girl, Grace, whose mother Shonagh leaves when she is eight years old. Unable to tell her the truth, her father convinces her that Shonagh is a Selkie (a seal that can take off its skin and live on land as a human) who saved his life when his boat was caught in a storm but was then unable to come back to land. The majority of the play follows fifteen-year-old Grace and her friend Ana as they leave their small seaside town and follow the clues in a newspaper article to find Shonagh in the big city.
Jumpers for Goalposts by Tom Wells, charts the progress of a five aside team in an LGBT+ amateur football league. Each scene in the play takes place in the changing room after their games, charting their generally disastrous performances on the field along with their personal developments. While primarily a comedy, there are moments of significant pathos as the play discusses the physical assault of one character over his sexuality and portrays another living with HIV.
I had very little idea what to expect from Director Hannah Ritchie’s all-female production of King Lear. It represents her first directing project in St Andrews, and features a cast of proven talent and some new faces. The play is generally considered one of Shakespeare’s finest, but it is also notoriously difficult to stage. It’s very long (uncut it can run as long as four hours), deals with incredibly complex themes, and the role of Lear itself is a challenge even to veteran Shakespearean actors, often seen as the Everest of theatre. With these factors in mind, I was curious to see how well a group of young women could pull this off.