Monday night’s performances as part of the Freshers’ Drama Festival showed great potential from Mermaids theatre newcomers. While some components were weaker than others, overall the evening delivered well-crafted pieces.
The Pretentious Young Ladies
The first play presented was the amusingly ridiculous, “The Pretentious Young Ladies”, written originally in French by Moliere. Unfortunately, the translated script did not deliver “the witty wordplay” promised by the program. Lines seemed difficult to pronounce and tripped up the actors on occasion, but I blame the awkward script more than the performers. I begin with the negative because on the whole, in spite of its shady script, the short play was (mostly) deftly performed.
The three main speakers of the play, Gorgibus (Alice Gold), Madelon (Nell Carter), and the Marquis de Marscaille (Callum Douglas) demonstrated great physicality and a keen sense of comedic timing. Though there seemed to be a general nervousness by some that made performances seem a bit rushed and stiff in the beginning, the cast gradually eased into their characters and told the rest of the story adeptly. Additionally, the majority of the cast skillfully navigated the slapstick comedy elements – a credit to good direction.
The set was well crafted, and scene changes smoothly and efficiently handled. The production team did a great job of creating different and believable spaces using the limited room and furniture existing in the Barron. Lighting was well incorporated, helping distinguish clearly when the larger than life Gorgibus was going to break down the fourth wall. On that note, there was definitely room for more of the characters to play with the audience, as she did.
Special mention must be made of the costumes. Without a doubt, these beautifully elaborate costumes were the best I have seen this year from any Mermaids show. The ladies had gorgeously garish, yet period and character appropriate dresses. The gentlemen had exquisite top hats which also translated into effective props.
“The Pretentious Young Ladies” exemplified a well thought out performance. It was greatly entertaining with its ridiculous dance sequences and fight scenes – in spite of distractingly troublesome dialogue. The actors who were nervous initially had no need to be, and should perform with more confidence in the future, as they ultimately demonstrated a good grasp of characterization and storytelling.
“Check Please”, written by Jonathan Rand, was the second performance of the evening. The play itself, a one-act classic, is hilarious, and this performance of it conveyed its humor well.
The piece was especially elevated by its two leads, Milly Clover and Miles Peter Hurley. Both managed to convey varying degrees of bafflement/irritation as each of their prospective dates got increasingly bizarre, without making the play feel stagnant or repetitive.
The supporting cast members playing the strange assortment of dates varied in their characterization skills. Some conveyed their stereotypes hilariously and with commendable commitment, while others were a little more hesitant to do so. Occasionally, when there was shouting, it was difficult to understand the dialogue. The standout performances of these were Perry Saxon, when playing “Mark” (the bin bag guy) and Ken Min Leong playing “Brandon” (with the incredible Street Car reference). They handled their other characters (Louis and Ken) with dexterity as well. Interestingly, both had previously appeared in “Ladies,” but were much better used in “Check Please” (perhaps further evidence of an unfortunate script).
Other than one slightly awkward set transition, the setting and tech were executed well. The set transition seemed necessary given the action that took place, but could have perhaps been reworked to make it seem less unnatural. The setting conveyed that of a typical restaurant with fully set tables and well thought out props. Lighting used to switch the action from one scene to another was done efficiently and effectively.
“Check Please” suffered from very few flaws and excelled as a light, amusing, one-act. This is credit to a passionate, detail-oriented production team and a dedicated cast.
Considering these are our theatre newbies, both “The Pretentious Ladies” and “Check Please” performed admirably. Their few weaknesses did not detract from the overall entertainment and both demonstrate great promise for the future of Mermaids theatre.