Edinburgh Fringe 2013
On a film set two graduates of a particular school of acting meet. Serge is the intense method actor who still follows his craft. We meet him first talking to his dead teacher through film. The method is espoused as if it is all that is needed to become the actor that will triumph. Serge though has become caught in a career filled with being baddies whilst selling out his belief that all bad men have another side to them. Joe, his former colleague has had no problems selling out to be a romantic hero. His shallowness is ably demonstrated by the fact that he is scared that a previous indiscretion with a pupil is exposed. Throw in an impressionable new actress, a fading East European director, a hard nosed producer and the convict on whom the film is based, recently released from prison and stand well back as the fuse is lit.
Serge is intense. His belief in the craft is absolute. Joe is as shallow as Serge runs deep and his belief in following his fancy absolute. Between them the rest of the cast are mere putty as the impressionable actress falls for Romeo’s charms, the Director wants to employ more method work and thinks – like Serge that the script has no depth. The producer is seeking to keep things moving but struggling against a backdrop of such infighting until the man on whom the entire film is based – David Healy – turns up. It is now that the real fun begins as Healy only wants to be understood. Serge wishes to hear and comprehend the character he is to play and as a convicted murderer, Healy makes everyone else nervous. What plays out is that post production editing cuts the very scene they argued over onstage. This leads Healy to take his own life. Serge then makes great threats and Joe has to finally end it by ending Serge.
As a piece of theatre this works. It was enjoyable and much of the script cuts along quite nicely. The ending does beg a few questions but overall there are few flights of fancy involved. As characters both Serge and Joe are vital to the plot as well as the believability of their arguments. Thankfully we have two fine actors who work very well together in the engine room. The rest of the cast are fine but it is to both Serge and Joe we look for the pace and energy to make this work. The rest of the cast add a little to the mixture but for each of the supporting characters you could see a few of the joins though they certainly gave it their all.
I found the staging a little creaky but it was supposed to be a film set and take it from me they are more gaffa tape and prayer than glitz and glamour. The size of the venue was, however a significant problem. It led to all the actors having to fit themselves into a small space that must have felt smaller by each entrance. As soon as there were more and more actors onstage it led to people crossing awkwardly or being forced to find a seat and stay in it.
Make no mistake Regent Rep are serious theatre makers. Their participation in the Sky Arts search for the Nation’s Best Am Dram proved that. Not only did they make it to the final but they were given marvellous publicity that with their 90,000 tickets sold annually make them the envy of many a professional outfit. I have to say that I really wanted to see them in the flesh and I was far from disappointed. Despite the misgivings I had over the set and size of venue this was assured and in particular the actors playing the leads could slot into many a professional show without the joins being obvious.
I was wholly comfortable in the audience aware that these were amateurs but their approach was thoroughly professional. It was nice they came up north considering they lost to a Scottish group in the final but as we say up here – Haste Ye Back…