ORIENTATION

Orientation

Performed by The University Of Northampton School of The Arts BA (HONS) Acting

Third Year

Directed by Tom Brennan

 

What a difference a few months and that magic “Third Year” epithet can make. I was lucky enough to see this cast in the Shakespeare double header last year in the Royal and Derngate. Back then, they were second year students, a joy to behold and stacked full of promise. Well that promise has been kept and today I witnessed a full blooded professional performance by everyone in the cast.

Orientation brings the audience right into the action from the very beginning as we are addressed directly throughout as the newest bunch of intakes into the deadly office environment. Who wouldn’t want to work for the owners of the company played by Suzy Cassels and Daniel Gray. Controlling and nauseating in equal measure but perfectly portrayed. The office is full of some amazing characters and the play tells their tales, each one of them has flesh added to them through vignettes either alone or with another person.

I will mention just a few if I may. Lucy Kitson and Jaryd Headley as potential lovers thrown together in the lift are wonderful. Unlike their lift jokes which were truly awful and perfect at the same time.

Rory Sayers is a very long suffering husband to Sophie-Rose Darby. If our serial killer had not bumped Sophie-Rose’s character off, I may well have done so myself. A truly vile and venomous woman!

The silent girl Heather (Amber Mae) was a scene stealer whenever she walked through, or joined in a group hug uninvited. Her walk was remarkable in itself looking like a marionette whose operator had lifted the string controlling her backside just a little too high! Silent throughout then suddenly thrust into the spotlight with a singing solo. Great!

Lots of laughs from Caroline Avis as Bev, yet in the second half she ensures we are left with at least a lump in our collective throat and a tear in our eye as she reconnects with her daughter, killed so many years before.

No review could be complete without mentioning Nicola, the Venezuelan/Ukrainian lady temp played by Daniel Hadjivarnava. Looking like a prettier version of the 1962 East German ladies shot-put champion, Daniel handled this tough role extremely well and I doubt he will miss the costume when the run has finished.

This play, although originally inspired by the short story of the same name by Daniel Orozco, had obviously grown as the company and director, worked together and I will wager that Mr Orozco would be thrilled to see what his work had become. The entire show was, as mentioned before, a thorough, well devised and well executed professional production. Extremely heavy on choreography, not just the sometimes frenetic and brilliant dance scenes, but the movement of a mass of characters through and across the acting area. Each move was fluid, looked unrehearsed and spontaneous and this is the proof of great choreography and hard work. I loved the stop motion scenes where the majority of the cast froze in place while another brief vignette was performed right there in their midst. This leads on to the lighting and the placement of the actor on the right spot for the right spotlight. Faultless! Not an inch out of place, no face left in partial shadow.

All in all this was an amazing, wonderful and thought provoking piece of theatre. As the programme said, not a tale of heroes and heroines but the same people that you and I bump into on our daily journey through life. The second group who perform in early December has a lot to live up to and the bar has been set very high in this production.

One final personal highlight was the off stage piano playing by Lucy and Caroline during “Last Christmas”. I am not sure how many saw it, but I did and loved it.

Congratulations to you all and I am looking forward to seeing you all again, on stage very soon.

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Henry The Fifth. Perfomed by Cyphers.

Henry The Fifth

Written by William Shakespeare

Adapted and Directed by Marcus J. Bazley

Performed by Cyphers

If you have ever seen any of the film versions of Henry V, you will have been amazed at the cast of hundreds if not thousands, and you will surely have a numb bum from sitting through almost two and a half hours of the performance. Imagine then, the promise of the same play with a running time of just ninety minutes and a cast of just six. How on earth can you do this great play justice in an hour and a half and just six players? There are forty seven speaking parts in the play and that’s without a single bowman to be seen.

I am pleased to tell you that Cyphers and their remarkable director Marcus J. Bazley have the answer. First, cut out the characters that Shakespeare put in that add nothing to the play, which in my opinion he only added as a filler and second, make every actor play many roles. Chorus, in all versions I have seen has been one single person. Cyphers gave us a true Chorus with each and every player sharing lines, half lines and sometimes single words to make up the greatest, albeit apologetic introduction to any play.

A word or two about each player and it must start with The King himself. The only person who was allowed to play one role was Paul Anthony as Henry. And what a Henry he played! His diction was so clear and crisp it reminded me of Richard Burton and he gave his all as Harry. His speech at Harfleur urging us once more unto the breach was electric. It was only my wife’s hand holding me back that stopped me from following him with the rest of the cast. His smile while delivering the St Crispin Day speech was perfect. It made the words stand out even more and by the end, if your soul was not stirred then you surely had to be a Frenchman! Paul was perfectly cast and I was entranced by every word he uttered.

Carmella Brown in every role she played was first class. So arrogant in her role as the French Herald Montjoy, sneering at the English King until the end when she begs leave to remove the French dead from the battlefield. Then as the French Princess Katherine learning to speak English, she was so naive and funny.

Rupert Sadler must come next as his bearded interpretation of Alice, the lady in waiting to Katherine was comedy heaven. This young man knows how to play to the audience and there was not one of us who were not involved in some point in his performance. Opposite this, we have the cowering traitor Lord Scroop, who cringes on his knees before being taken away for execution. Then the prancing, horse lover himself, The Dauphin. So many roles and so much talent.

Will Hoyhead, like everyone in the cast played more characters than you can shake a stick as but for me, his Fluellen was just brilliant. His Welsh accent was perfect, look you, and he played the part for all he was worth. An odd part as it combines some of the funniest and some of the most compassionate lines in the play. Later as the defeated French King Charles VI,  Will continued to show his undoubted talent.

Louise Wilcox simply seemed to be everywhere. I swear she had more parts than anyone else and was seldom off stage. As the French Constable she showed a more reserved side to the French nobility. Not as arrogant as many others and with the good sense to treat Harry and his army with some caution. Later as Queen Isabel she is far more haughty despite being the queen to a defeated king. Louise was immensely watchable and I was particularly impressed with her chorus work, every word timed to perfection.

Last but not least, Dylan Lincoln. Dylan is a powerful actor and he has a presence on stage that makes you look towards him even if he is standing behind you. Not the tallest actor but very physical and extremely intimidating during the scene that exposes the traitors Scroop, Grey and Cambridge. Later as a slightly demented Captain Macmorris played for laughs to great effect.

This adaptation of Henry The Fifth was without doubt a great success and played to perfection by each and every one of the cast. The action, the effects, the set, the movement and choreography were ideal and the whole production a tour de force for Cyphers.

I am looking forward to seeing this company again and for me, the sooner the better. One word of warning, if they come to visit, keep them away from your banisters. (If you don’t understand this, then get a ticket and watch!)

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