Ally Lodge reviews ‘Webs’, at the Barron Theatre, St Andrews, 16 March 2012

Rating: 3.5/5

If you think living in DRA is annoying (a colossal 20 minute walk from town!), then meet Holly, Freddy, Bastian and Claire: four students, two couples, together in one house two miles out of St Andrews.

Numbers aside: this is Webs, the final play of the SAND Festival, written and directed by Alex Mullarky. Trapped in this dirty, remote little house, the audience watches as the intensity of the semester tears away at and breaks down the relationships between the four characters – with some comedy gold along the way.

Left to right: Ben Anderson (Bastian), Sarah Pollock (Claire), Kuffasse Boane (Holly) and Luke Hier (Freddy)

The four main actors – Kuffasse Boane, Luke Hier, Ben Anderson and Sarah Pollock – were strong and well cast. Being the bedrock of an essentially character-driven play, the success of the performance primarily rode on them and they did not let it down. The strength of these four should not, however, have meant that mediocrity in the other three characters was permissible. Hamish White and Emma Corcoran, playing Bastian’s parents, lacked convincing maturity. Their scene was supposed to be awkward, and it was – but not entirely for the right reasons. However, as soon as Boane, Hier, Anderson and Pollock had the stage to themselves, the action moved far more smoothly. The occasional line may have received some sketchy delivery, but, nitpicking aside, they did a commendable job.

The set was the most detailed and prop-filled I have seen in a student play for a while, which was refreshing. Unfortunately, a technical glitch on the night meant that the Barron’s sound system managed to drown out the pretty background music with some very loud and sinister-sounding white noise. Apart from that, the staging was well done; a couple of noisier scene changes can be forgiven considering just how extremely dark the black-outs were.

In a student new drama festival, the play itself as well as the production must also hold up to scrutiny. Webs is incredibly down to earth: the main characters and scenarios are pretty familiar to us here in St Andrews. The humour of the play was spot-on, and the comedic timing and delivery from the actors kept it right on-beat throughout. Some inconsistencies cropped up on occasion (who goes on a house tour and then signs a lease without having seen the bathroom?), but in general the play was tightly structured. It certainly held a mirror up to this particular audience: any St Andrews student will see themselves or people they know somewhere in the script/action. Beyond St Andrews, the play would require some tweaking to keep its relevance, but as a student play in the Barron, in St Andrews, the intimacy and personal nature of the play allowed it to be accepted without question.

The subtlety of the title is somewhat damaged by the blatant discussion of dust and cobwebs towards the end. Minor issues aside, the play was wonderfully entertaining, injecting familiar scenarios with humour and vivacity.

My parting piece of praise must, however, go to the wardrobe of Bastian (Ben Anderson). Those t-shirts could (almost) hold a show of their own.

 

Ally Lodge

Image credit – Katharine Philp