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.
With St Andrews arguably the most diverse it’s ever been in terms of theatre, it’s rare to see something new. That said, Getting Even is the first play that I can think of that actively incorporates audience interactivity to go up here. As a mesh of an entertaining, hour long experience with simple decision-making, it does just enough to keep you on the hook for the full hour.
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.
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.
Hedda Gabler is a very hard play to get right. Henrik Ibsen’s late play is about a recently married woman (the titular Hedda) who proceeds to destroy the lives of almost everyone around her for no other apparent reason than she is “bored.” This is where the difficulty comes in: if the tone of the play is misjudged, Hedda (here played by Misha Leggett) can seem like a petulant psychopath, while the play’s other characters come across as stupid. This production had a difficult job to do and it delivered.
Nick Payne’s Constellations goes up in the Stage this week, so I sat down with director Al Gillespie and actors Kate Kitchens (Marianne) and Jared Liebmiller (Roland) to chat about the show.
Jez Butterworth’s Parlour Song is a comedic, yet surprisingly tragic exploration of what lies under the surface of seemingly ordinary suburban lives – an engaging and almost voyeuristic look into the gradual breakdown of demolitions-man Ned (Noah Liebmiller), and the affair between his wife Joy (Hannah Raymond-Cox), and their neighbour, Dale (Louis Catliff). Being familiar with the play, I was highly impressed with how well co-directors Alexander Gillespie and Jamie Jones, and their cast, added even more amusement and dimension to the already rich characters and themes of Butterworth’s lesser-known work.