Sunday, 2 August 2015

24:7 Theatre Festival, We are the Multitude @ John Thaw Theatre, 26.07.15

We have become all too familiar with paradigm of opposites in the films we see, the books we read and the plays we watch. The star-crossed lovers from opposing families, the feuding gangs fighting for their turf or, as a more contemporary take, a social divide coming together and rising up as an unstoppable dance duo. And that’s exactly what makes up We Are The Multitude.

Lisa and Simon are colleagues who share an office pod and we needn’t even meet them to have an idea of their differences. Lisa tarts up her table with fluffy tinsel and flowers, while house of Simon sports the understated, minimal look. As history and countless TV sitcoms have told us, we know we can expect the pair to cause each other some headache, but eventually put their difference aside to work together.

Predictable as it sounds, we are surprised when we discover what does force these two together. No, it’s not being stuck in an elevator or an ATM vestibule (classic Chandler). It's more interesting. The two are trapped in their office due to their university building being targeted by the protest group We Are The Multitude. However, the narrative isn’t a political one. In fact, the politics are an effective conduit to put two lonely and unpopular people together.

The piece is heavily comedic and the actors do an incredible job of getting the script off the page. Amy Drake, who plays Lisa, is a clear comic talent and has received recognition for similar roles. Drake does well to bring her movements and vocal technique to utilise a script’s humour. Andy Blake equally gives his character dimension as the condescending and self-righteous Simon, who hides behind an intellectual superiority to conceal his feelings of personal failure and fulfilment.

I did think it possible that Simon served a purpose to personify the touched-upon politics of We Are The Multitude, but did we lose ourselves in laughing so much that we missed something more? The protest group targets the several university buildings to urge the Prime Minister to acknowledge that education should be for everyone and not for the privileged. If we are not given the right chances, do we run the risk of a world of Simons, not realising or fulfilling their potential? I don’t know whether this was intended by writer Laura Harper or something constructed from my viewing – either way I would take it as a win.

I can’t deny that I enjoyed this piece. Who doesn’t enjoy a witty script? However, some of the confessions did seem a tad predictable and contrived, but that may be due to the familiar framework. Nonetheless, the piece clearly found success across all levels  a well-written script, directed effectively by Liz Stephenson, performed by talented and focused actors. So you can forgive a bit of predictability – they are classics for a reason, after all.

Words: Kate Morris
Image: Courtesy of 24:7 Theatre Festival

Saturday, 1 August 2015

24:7 Theatre Festival, Madness Sweet Madness @ Cosmo Concert Hall 27.7.15

Hi, I’m Kate and I like theatre. I like stories and when a group of creative individuals come together to breathe life into a script. What I like most about theatre, is that it can reflect issues to society and fly the flag for change. I confess in the past I have been disappointed to find the piece didn’t carry a contemporary relevance or stand for something – and that is admittedly snobbish. There is nothing wrong with just enjoying a play because it is a story. Chocolate doesn’t do much for you, but you enjoy it all the same. Be that as it may, I was happy to see the title Madness Sweet Madness on the 24:7 programme; yes, we are getting some stigmas of mental health on the table.

Madness Sweet Madness has a strange ambience, seemingly somewhere in the realm of a dream, on the brink of wake. The piece is presented in real time, but there is something oh so…off. Like a watercolour reverie, bleeding into something more real.

Grace (Sophie Harrison) is unable to work and is lodging with her brother in law, Vesuvius (Matt Aistrup), after her husband Charlie and the passengers of a missing plane are lost. Grace and Vesuvius’s relationship had me guessing almost instantly. We learn Grace has been prescribed some pills to help her cope and, equally suspicious, Vesuvius is sleep-deprived due to Grace's unpredictability and asks if he could “knock her out” so he can get some shut eye. Just as we try to keep up, two unconventional cops arrive, hopefully to shed some light on this murkiness. But they heighten the unsettling surrealism. They have intimate details they inexplicably acquired and oddly help themselves to cook eggs for their breakfast. The madness has spread here.

The script was very intriguing, but unfortunately some comic material was skated over and I suspect this is down to the pacing of the piece overall. The aforementioned dreamy oddity was a theme across the dialogue and its delivery, which came at the expense of the jokes planted by writer Georgina Tremayne.

Another motif that had me quizzical was the luminous house at the back of the stage. What purpose did this serve? Was it yet another attempt at a moving Salvador Dali painting, a representation of the nature of mental illness or simply because there are references to houses (none of which glow in the dark) in the script?

All of the actors did a good job to animate the vision of both writer and director, but I think it would benefit having characters of an older age. I hate to sound fickle, but I think Grace’s grief would in turn be more relatable and gain greater empathy.

This play would serve a second attempt as I think we haven’t yet scratched the surface of its potential.

Words: Kate Morris
Images: Courtesy of 24:7 Theatre Festival