When you’re asked to review a production of a play like Arthur Miller’s 1949 play Death of a Salesman, it’s difficult to tell if you should just review the production or attempt to make some comment upon the play itself. The problem is that Death of a Salesman is so embedded in western theatrical tradition, and even in the wider cultural imagination, making any attempt at criticism seem far outside the scope of this review. Suffice it to say that it’s a classic for a reason. To paraphrase W. H. Auden: Some plays are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.
Don’t be misled by this play’s title; it deals with much more than physics or physicists. The show was performed in its original German (a delight as a mother-tongue German speaker) with English subtitles. Dürrenmatt’s dark absurdist comedy tackles the ethics and structures of science, madness and power. In the Director’s Note, the directors acknowledge the challenge in staging this “fiercely moral yet absurdist piece” and bringing it into the 21st century, a challenge they wonderfully mastered.
I can’t say I really understand the resurgence of Agatha Christie, but she is coming back in a powerful fashion. Modern adaptations are trying to balance the camp of the older works with a darker, more realistic tone, and Rowan Wishart’s interpretation of And Then There Were None is a perfect example of this. It kept an even hand of fun and dark and managed to make a compelling, thrilling mystery out of an 80-year-old story. But there were technical inconsistencies throughout that kept it from being quite as exactly tuned as it could have been.
Student writing and science fiction are two things which are often underrepresented in St Andrews. A student-written science fiction show? Now that’s something we really don’t get a lot of.
Sitcoms are excellent. They’re silly, they’re clever, they’re funny and they make us smile a little bit when we feel less than perfect. Importantly, above all else, they are fun. As a lifelong fan of the show Scrubs, I couldn’t help but notice parallels between my favorite sitcom and the style of Charlie Sinclair. It’s irreverent, somewhat faux-intellectual, and has the potential to be as sugary as a powdered donut. And when it was like that, I found myself becoming a part of the laugh track. But Charlie Sinclair was not perfect, and while its highs were high, inconsistencies in the script and direction kept the show from its potential.
Theresa Rebeck’s Spike Heels went up in the Barron theatre on the 17th and 18th of March without the audience it deserved. Notable for the way in which it handles the issue of sexual harassment alongside its comic underpinnings, the show was definitely a tough sell. Yet, director Addie Gray deftly navigated these issues of workplace harassment and sexual politics, even if she couldn’t avoid the show’s rather divisive ending.
Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at’s The Optic Trilogy presents three separate acts – ‘Transparency’, ‘Brilliance’, and ‘Iridescence’ – each involving a Man (Clement Yeung) and a Woman (Manaal Mahjoub) and set on July 25th, 2001. We see in turn: a woman hiringa male escort who expects sex and is instead used as a way for her to try and puzzle out her perception of Singapore as her home; a photographer whose blind model turns out to be the woman he had an obsessive crush on as a teenager; and a woman who proposes to her deceased fiancé’s ex-boyfriend in a complicated processing of grief. Two-hander plays are tricky beasts: there’s nowhere to hide when you only have yourself and one other castmate to drive the narrative from beginning to end. Unfortunately, Yeung and Mahjoub did not overcome this challenge.
Devising is an incredibly interesting concept. A troupe of actors working to create a piece of theatre has the potential to bring something new to the stage. This idea is at the core of Blackbox. Headed up by Oli Savage, Blackbox is St Andrews’ first devising troupe, and though technically formed last year, this semester is the first time the troupe has staged a production. This past Monday was their first showcase of what they could do – the result? It’s a bit tough to describe.
The play centres around three women in a small Yorkshire community, all coping with scars left by the same man, the almost inhumanly vicious Royce. Dealing with themes of abuse, family, and innocence, it is mostly in monologue, with characters storytelling directly to the audience throughout almost the entire show. The script, written by Richard Cameron, is a gauntlet of intense, emotionally draining vignettes that touch on every element of abuse. This is exemplified in turn by the three characters: Ruby (Eleanor Burke) lives in the shadow of Royce’s emotionalabuse, Jodie (Annabel Steele) is haunted by the memory of his psychological torture, and Lynette (Jen Grace) attempts to cope with his threats of constant physical violence. If one thing about this play is obvious, it is that these three actors deliver tour-de-force performances.
Opening the 2016 Freshers’ Festival Punk Rock had all the right ideas. Although the show could have done with some editing down, director Isi Webb-Jenkins was evidently keen to let us know she has a lot of ideas to offer.