Edinburgh Fringe 2011
A performance of the classic shocking text that hits some of the heights demanded but ultimately doesn’t really match the quality of the writing with performances that are patchy. A lack of design brings our focus sharply on what the actors are doing and between over long set changes at worrying speed and uneven performances it doesn’t captivate as it should. That having been said there are some cracking performances with some notable set pieces that match with aplomb what is required.
The text is a play of its time and though some of it is no longer as shocking as it ought to be it does present us with some disturbing home truths and images of living in the UK in the late 20th /early 21st centuries. I have always though that Mark Ravenhill’s script would date quickly but hold some of the attention of our acting fraternity because it is just so good.
Holding back the years (I instantly apologise for that link) was Warren Taylor who instantly caught you like Mick Hucknall on speed and every time he appeared you were enthralled as to how his take on Brian would develop. Matthew Bunn graduated from being slightly camp caricature to much more assured as the piece developed and his story – the central one of abuse – was sensitively handled.
The staging of the piece has taken the same view as many of the other pieces I have seen in venues with lots to see and little time in which to do the change round. A sofa and a few chairs give us little by way of help in placing things in context! The cast do their best but ultimately the issue is one of believing these characters are from the edge of a society that abuses them at will.
There is a striving towards high level production values of which it simply falls short. Performances are not universally convincing though Warren Taylor may shine, Abbey Mordue brings ability but needs more vulnerability. Ian Baksh intrigues. As Mark he is quintessentially confused and you get that clearly. Billy Knowles needs to settle more in depth but time may well be his friend as the piece has plenty of depth in which the actors can settle.
As an example of Ravenhill’s work it is not the best that I have seen but it is also not the worst. The nudity and rape scene is handled well and the direction is essentially sound. Dan Hyde has an assured handle on the issues but may just require to work on a more integrated and fluid theatrical direction rather than scene changes. The audience seemed to enjoy what was performed and I was far from bored.
The performances were not really a match to the text though in at least instance there was a cracking performance within the piece that has made me write his name down to watch for the future. It was just not enough to move me from my overall feeling that this was a 3 star show rather than anything better. Having said that, with a more experienced sense of direction alongside another year under their belt about turn theatre company may be one worth watching in the future.