Days of Significance

Days of Significance

By Roy Williams

Directed by Abigail Graham

Performed by The University of Northampton BA (Hons) Acting Third Year Students

As an actor, unless you are wealthy enough to turn down work, you do what you know best and take the part and play it to the best of your ability. For me this was an unpleasant play and not particularly well written but trust me when I say it was extremely well acted. I am glad that the programme leader chose this production as dealing with controversy is a part of an actor’s life.

So our scene could be any town on a noisy Friday night. To be honest it reminds me of the town that where I work, Reading, that turns from a town to a zoo in a few hours. Large amounts of puking, urinating, snogging, fighting and special serving of todger-twirling make it a proper night. Young men due to go to war, young girls out for whatever they can get. It makes for a night to remember and probably one to try and forget. That hangover is going to be a bitch!

We meet two cousins, Trish (Aoife Smyth) and Hannah (Penelope May). Aoife portrays Trish as hard as nails, ready to ruck and as randy as a three balled tomcat. Not a sweet character but fully bought to fighting, swearing life perfectly. This really is a great performance.

Penelope gives Hannah some heart, some moral compass, even if it doesn’t always point north. Her final interaction with Lenny (Jake Rivers) at the end of the play is worth the price of the ticket alone.

While we are talking about Lenny, Jake gives him some depth and with the heavy beard, the age as well. Not the biggest part but extremely well played and delivered on stage.

In the second act we find ourselves in Basra and I really love the use of the video messages. Cleverly done and used to show the change in the character as well.

Kudos to the actors playing the male soldiers not least of all as three out of the four are female. In this Sophie Guiver as Ben, Matilda Hunt as Sean and Elizabeth Adejimi as Sgt Brooks really excel. Together with Connor McAvoy as Jamie they are up to their ears in testosterone and adrenaline, they show their bravado, their fear as they are caught behind enemy lines.

Back home and we have a wedding scene which finally brings a little fun and levity to the whole play, despite that Trish is still picking fights with anyone breathing including poor Hannah! Everyone in the background with non speaking lines are so watchable. Subtle performances in the half light as the drama plays out stage front.

Some great dialogue between Hanna and Dan (Stuart Warren) balances the pro and anti war arguments. Really nicely delivered by Stuart and Penelope. We also get a little more of Jamie as he faces his court-marshal. This is a better scene for Connor as he is allowed to fully express himself.

So a short review but a heartfelt one. I only have one more thing to add. If I saw this play advertised again, I would not go. If however they showed me the programme and I saw this same cast looking back at me, I would buy tickets in a heartbeat. You are all so damn talented!

My note for the Director Abigail Graham. No clue how you did it but you made this a performance to remember for the right reasons. The writer was of no help there! Congratulations.

 

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Blue Stockings

Blue Stockings

By Jessica Swale

Directed by Jamie Rocha Allan

Performed by The University of Northampton BA (Hons) Acting Third Year Students

Young ladies riding bicycles? Has the world gone mad? Whatever next? Heaven knows they will want the vote next!

Set in Girton College, Cambridge in 1898, the play centres on the campaign to allow female students to graduate. This play is a history lesson, a social statement and a reminder that although we have come a long way in 118 years, we still have an awful long way to go when it comes to equality.

The play focuses on four new students. Carolyn (Danni-Louise Ryan), Celia (Ellen Shersby-Wignall), Tess (Lucy Kitson) and Maeve (Sophie-Rose Darby). Everyone has their story as to how they got to Girton, their hopes for the future and what drives them to push into the “man’s world” of academia. These four young ladies rock the stage and capture our hearts as we meet them. Each of them makes their characters so totally believable and your heart goes out to them as their trials and tribulations continue. I could watch all four of them all day and never tire of it. When Maeve is sent back to her family, Sophie-Rose had me so close to tears as she had her heart broken and her future stolen from her on stage. Wonderful acting and such deep emotion. Perhaps Northampton University would consider a play focussing on both her back story and what happened after Girton?

As a happier counterpoint to this, I missed several minutes of dialogue as I was still choking with laughter after watching Ellen Shersby-Wignall’s totally demented can-can dance.

Mrs Welsh (Stephanie Waugh) is what I think is a really tough role to play. She has fought to get where she is but still inhibited in so many ways and does not allow her charges free rein at any time. Terrified of losing her position through any hint of imprudence, but still totally loyal to both the college and her girls. Stephanie gives a blinding performance and brings the character to life before our eyes. Strong but fragile in equal measure. A real powerhouse however as she confront the protesters.

As a contrast to the character of Mrs Welsh, we have Miss Blake (Rhiana Young). Rhiana gives a real spark to her role as the teacher; young, politically motivated and a feminist through and through. I love her interaction with the young ladies in her class.

A special mention here for Lucy Kitson. I dare to single her out as she has such a major role in this play. Lucy is, I believe an exceptional actress and I have no doubts she will go a long way in whatever field of theatre she chooses. In the course of the two hours she changes with her character from young girl, to young lady, to a determined woman.

So that brings me to the gentlemen of Cambridge or more importantly the real gentleman that play them.

Will (Jared Gregory) played with care and warmth. He is lovely in this role throughout and so nice to see him with some decent dialogue. Highlight is his sudden expression of love for Tess!

Edwards (Jaryd Headley) proves that he is as shallow as a big bag of shallow things but comes good in the end. He is extremely well played and his timing, both comedic and dramatic timing are perfect. Nice one Mr Headley!

Lloyd (Tom Stone) gets the award for punch of the day. Not for the one that he threw on stage but for the one I would happily have given him. Well done Tom for inspiring your audience to violence through your acting.

Maudsley (Stuart Warren), is arrogant, pompous and everything bad about Victorian male values. This is not a big part for Stuart but he gives a well reflected performance.

Billy/Ralph (George Marlow). I prefer to concentrate on the role of Billy as it is so much more complicated. His interaction with his sister Maeve as he tells them their mother is dead is remarkable. Overcome with anger and sorrow all smashed together, George really shines.

A word for Elliot Holden. We know you played three different characters but you also know we will forever remember you as Mrs Bott complete with substantial stubble. Never overplayed but wickedly funny.

Thank to everyone in the cast and be assured you were all part of a very successful production. Not everyone got a mention today but bring on Flash Festival and I will review you all and it will be my pleasure to do so.

For our Director, Jamie Rocha-Allan I say bravo! Totally different to Judas but directed with just as much care and passion. One complaint if I dare, too much smoke on set. I know why it is used and it was effective but made this old man wheeze.

 

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Welcome to Thebes

Welcome to Thebes

By Moira Buffini

Directed by Eva Sampson

Performed by The University of Northampton BA (Hons) Acting Third Year Students

What a welcome! Three soldiers screaming and shouting and pointing guns at us as they come in from the back of the auditorium then strut arrogantly about the stage, threatening yet actually introducing us to the play and fleshing out the background. Welcome to Thebes!

The play is set in the dark underbelly of the city of Thebes where the new President, Eurydice, widow of the late King Creon is preparing to meet with Theseus, the first citizen of the powerful state of Athens.

So that’s the scene set but let’s talk about some riveting performances. In no order of magnificence, appearance or even alphabetical!

Megan Burda as the blind prophet Tiresias made me feel so tired. On stage about 95% of the time she never ever stopped moving. Crouched in her usual place at the front left of the stage, she writhed and slithered and constantly kept her limbs in motion. Last time I saw Tiresias, he was a man but he beat some snakes to death and pissed off Hera who turned him into a woman for seven years. The perfect time for Megan to take the role. Megan has a strong voice and played the enigmatic old prophet perfectly.

Our President Eurydice was a showcase for Sharni Tapako-Brown; so tall, slim, elegant and statesmanlike. Her body language speaks volumes throughout and is at its best when dealing with the cocky, unpleasant first citizen of Athens, Theseus (Vandreas Marc). In his role, Vandreas is strong, proud, arrogant and thoroughly unlikeable. Anyone who can make me dislike their character is obviously doing something well.

Talking of disliking people, step up Prince Tydeus! Full of fire and grand ideas but actually being lead around by the nose by Pargeia for most of the time. Charlie Clee, struts his stuff like a young Che Guevara and is immensely watchable. He has great timing and he possesses so much energy, sometimes he has to fight to reign it in. Charlie has risen to the true elite in my book as when he mistreats Ismene, he is close to making me come on stage and punch his lights out. My hat is off to you Charlie, you were outstanding.

Amber Mae as Ismene is at the very least a revelation. Virtually speechless in other productions I have seen her in, as Ismene, she shines like a diamond! Her scene with Tydeus is distressing to watch and her ongoing suffering shows in her face. To add insult to injury, she gets a smack in the puss from Kathryn McKerrow as Pargeia. Kathryn gives her character so much arrogance and power and she exudes attitude.

Longing to bury her brother Polynices, Suzannah Cassels as Antigone is a dream to watch. Suzannah quietly demands that you watch her. She does not have the biggest part but an extremely important one and what she does and how she acts when others are around tells as much of the story as her lines do. This is the first serious role I have seen her in and I am suitably impressed.

Interacting with both Antigone and Ismene we have Haemon (Benjamin Williams). Benjamin brings a gentleness to this part while portraying the blind son of Eurydice who, despite proposing to the wrong sister gets the girl in the end.

If there is a lighter moment in this play, then it is with the help of Grace Aitken (Xenophanes), Annalise Taylor (Helia) and Caroline Avis (Thalia). As part of Eurydice’s cabinet they bring a little levity and with each of them possessing an infectious smile, they make a lovely break from the threat and misery that lingers in Thebes.

Daniel Gray as Scud, Madeleine Hagerty as Megaera and Patrick Morgan as Sergeant Miletus are the trio who open our play but for me their strongest moment is when Scud mistakes Talthybia (Ciara Goldsberry) for a ghost and holds her at gunpoint before getting shot himself. This was a strong ensemble between them all, Ciara included and was a high point of the acting if not of the play itself. Daniel Gray is exceptional.

So I think I have waffled enough and by now, I hope you get the idea that I really loved this play and this production of it. If you or your character has not had a mention, then that is my fault and not yours. There was not a single player who did not play their part to the fullest and make their character part of the whole.

A word about the Director, Eva Sampson. I have never met Eva but I have no doubt that she made her company give their all for her and us, the audience. They are a credit to her and an example of the great work done at The University of Northampton.

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