Caterina Giammarresi reviews Just As It Is which went up earlier this year as a Freshers’ Play but went up again during the On the Rocks Festival.
Just As It Is returned to the Barron theatre after its debut there during the Freshers’ Plays as part of On the Rocks. Written by co-director, Alice Shearon, the play follows young and witty Amy (Lauren MacLellan) on her visit to St Andrews to see her brother Neil (Stephen Quinn). Amy arrives to St Andrews with a head full of romantic ideas about university life, expecting “late night coffee shop revision session with people in thick framed glasses.” However, her expectations are quickly shattered by the events that unfold during her short stay in the bubble.
Filled with St Andrews-specific references such as the Toastie Bar, Taste, and the Bop, the script is obviously tailored to a particular audience, and in both instances that the show has gone up, this has certainly worked in its favour. Shearon takes the classic young student archetypes and gives them a St Andrews twist. During her stay, Amy meets the suave pretentious philosophy student, the self-absorbed and sex-obsessed girl, the guy who is so pretentiously posh that he doesn’t know who he actually is anymore, that one guy who never seems to do any work and takes deadlines more as suggestions, the overly keen girl obsessed with academics and CV building, and the impressionable fresher preoccupied with her own social life. The overall energy of the show was high and the pacing was nice, largely due to the interesting writing and staging of memory scenes that took the audience back in time to view funny and sometimes embarrassing moments in the character’s lives. While the characters seemed at points to be exaggerated and the jokes a little expected, everything came together and created quite a hilarious and enjoyable show.
The cast as a whole was pretty strong and had good chemistry on stage. Two stand-out performances for me were Coco Claxton, playing the part of Lisa as the “self-absorbed and self-obsessed girl,” and Alexandra Koronkai-Kiss, who in addition to co-directing, played the part of Mary, the “impressionable fresher.” Claxton was endearingly naive and I often found myself sympathising with her and wanting to forgive her for her horribly stupid (but hilarious) life decisions as she struggled to stay faithful to her boyfriend while at university. Koronkai-Kiss, though filling in for a rather minor role, was equally as hilarious when she arrived towards the end of the play and had to re-introduce herself to her academic father who was so drunk that he didn’t remember adopting her. It must be said, though, that many of the actors’ performances would have greatly benefited from slowing down their lines and focusing more on articulation. There was a time or two when particularly funny lines were lost on the audience because actors rushed through them. However, any technical criticism of their acting is completely redeemed by the absolute commitment and devotion to the play that was coming from each of the individual actors. It was obvious that they were having fun, making it nearly impossible for the audience not to have fun with them.
Photo credits go to Just As It Is and On the Rocks