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NODA crit for this play
|Firstly can I say I didn’t like the play
itself. I think it had a doubtful appeal, being heavy with symbolism,
and LADS had an uphill struggle to engage me. However, I can see the
merit in doing new and different plays. There was a strong religious
message throughout – for example the ‘crucifixion’ scene - but this
didn’t come across as much as the playwright intended, I think. I also
was concerned about the staging. From where I sat a lot of the action
which took place on the floor was lost. I couldn’t see the business with
the crib figures – which were too small to have the impact needed. I’m
sure the front rows had a clear view, but you must consider the view of
all the audience who all pay the same to see the show.
Even if the play is not strong, give the audience something good to look at and you’re off to a better start. However, the play is very static and it took place on – I’m afraid to say - a visually dreary set. The very low settee made actors disappear for those seated at the back of the auditorium. The Christmas tree should have been bigger, for example, and clothes should have been brighter, to lift the piece. I didn’t get the feeling that it was Christmas i.e. a special time. I was also puzzled and then irritated by the projector, which flashed the green screen between slides and was kept on through the action, including the pub scene. The action of the projector was slow and should have been turned off when not needed, although the pictures shown were good.
As mentioned, the play is static and gave little opportunity for the action to open out, but one scene which did was the pub scene. However this was unconvincing; drinks were not drunk, no other people were there, there was no background noise and yet it was Christmas Eve! Also no-one seemed to have outdoor coats.
There were some good performances, which I will touch on later, but the ensemble playing was awkward. The family never appeared to “know” each other – timing and movement was very patchy and the words were not well learned, with awkward pauses. There was no touching at all and often not even eye contact. You must learn the words and be able to trust the person you are acting with. Rehearsal time is crucial for this. Eddie and Cat and Kirsty and Tom had good and believable relationships, but father and son and mother and son didn’t work. However the ensemble work in the pub was good and the end of the play was very dramatic and well done. Pace was generally better in the second half.
Props handling looked like it needed more rehearsal time, but well done with managing the fold-up bed, which looked a horrible prop. The search for the baby Jesus, which had a symbolism in the play, was lost so the impact was reduced but the crucifixion was well done, with the stigmata and the wounds so well bound, but I couldn’t see how the wounds had been caused and presume that Tom had harmed Ralph.
Turning to the individual performers, I felt Ralph (Richard De Berry) was a bit doubtful with words, although the first scene with his wife got the required laughs, from its disjointed and tense nature. He improved in later scenes and grew in strength and stature and was especially good in the long scene, building the tension with what happened to his friend Derek, the audience were on the edge of their seats. He was also good in the final scene. More eye contact would have helped the portrayal generally.
Angela (Eileen Stock) was a good performance, lively and with variation, giving a feeling of tension when required. An appealing performance. The scene with her son, arguing over the death of the brother was well done by both. Eddie (Jon Gilbert), I felt, never had any connection with his parents, but he was good and strong in the long speeches. Sometimes the delivery was too soft but there was plenty of variation and conviction, especially in the main speech setting out his beliefs.
Cat (Frances Dennis) gave an excellent performance with lovely looks, the accent was well maintained and convincing. A pity the playwright gave her little to do except react to the others but she portrayed the awkward feeling of meeting a boyfriend’s parents for the first time very well. A good rapport with Eddie and a beautiful scene when discussing having their own children. Kirsty (Lucy Parkin) also had little to do but reacted well to her brother and was convincing in running the pub.
Tom (Dan Cooper) was the star of the show, with a great sense of being the “idiot” boy without it being overdone. He conveyed his lack of ability and confidence and gave an appealing character. Very well done. The scene when he is revealed as the “son” they were all looking for was beautifully played, another edge of the seats moment for the audience; he was the son of a carpenter, again full of significance. The burning of the wish cards, so difficult onstage, was drawn out a bit but very well managed.
In conclusion I believe it is neither a good play nor well written, with a message that was difficult to get across, structured as it is, with scenes running parallel in time. Your choice of staging didn’t help you and much of the symbolism was lost. However there were lovely individual performances, although more rehearsal time was needed on the ensemble playing. Words must be learnt and secure, you lose credibility if there are too many pauses. Having said all that, there was plenty of potential on show, with more to come from you all, I’m sure.