Joanna Alpern reviews the Freshers’ One Acts: The Beginning, Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws & A Time for Farewells, at the Barron Theatre, St Andrews, 2 & 3 December 2011

The Beginning: 2/5

Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws: 3.5/5

A Time for Farewells: 4/5

 

The Beginning is an ambitious play by the up-and-coming fresher Allison Morano. Although the dialogue is slightly clichéd, the play’s central concept is interesting and original; it asks questions about creative license and the distribution of power between actors and directors in the light of the Fall of mankind, as well as examining the philosophical implications of the Fall in the light of a theatre production. Some fun moments included the lighting changes at the beginning evoking Genesis’ ‘Let there be light’ and the Hell reference as the director tells the stage manager to go back to that ‘pit you call home’. Rachael Tam had a natural charm, Sam Peach and Cara Mahoney were delightfully Edenic in white, and Rebecca D’Souza made a clear, consistent and energetic evil stage manager with good comic timing. However, it was not clear whether Hamish White’s lines were supposed to be serious or exaggeratedly pretentious, and his performance lacked a little movement.

Backstage: Bea’s rabbit-surrogate-child in 'Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws'

Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws had some very nice directorial touches, including the use of a magazine with ‘Is this really the end?’ written across it to echo the collapse of society in 1960s America; the decision for Bea’s rabbit-surrogate-child to be played by a man in a bunny suit also added garishness to the scene. Katie Brennan and Jasmine Godfrey skilfully played the bitter barrenness and the mutual dislike of the pair of women, reacting well to the waitress’ overly-stuffed pregnant belly, (which in turn gave the fated future generation a constant sinister presence), but could have done more to accentuate the age of their characters. James Bowen was a cool, crude counterpart hustler to Ben Anderson’s endearing yet comical lisping and hip-swinging, and Lorenzo De Boni’s surrealist poetry recitals and lecherous gestures to a phallic candle were duly appreciated by the audience.

Apart from a few awkwardly long scene changes, A Time for Farewells was a stunning performance. The strong focused lighting perfectly enhanced the dreamlike flashback quality of the play and while the material sometimes verged on cheesy, the actors’ talent meant that it was delivered in a fresh, exciting and moving way. The audience giggled at Oliver Claydon’s cheek, while Johnnie Morgan did justice to Alex’s dry, understated wit and played the role with impressive pathos, and Paige Settle made a fun and warm-hearted ‘Miss Right’ with some very striking performances in the more passionate scenes.

 

Joanna Alpern

Image credit – Maureen Nalepa