Carla van der Sluijs reviews ‘The Practice Room’ written and directed by George Murnaghan Gordon and produced by Alexander Qiu, which went up as a part of the On the Rocks Festival.
The Practice Room was an interesting exploration of relationships in the often tense atmosphere of the creative arts. Through unusual narrative technique, this play documented the relationship between John, a music teacher, and Sarah, his shy yet talented student. The arrival of Charles, a young writer scribing a biography of John’s former teacher, forces John to recollect on his relationship between him and his former music teacher, and its deterioration.
The definite highlight of this work was the complexity of character offered by the script, particularly those of John and Sarah. Sarah’s awkwardness was portrayed well and she successfully appeared anxious and introverted throughout the whole piece. John was cleverly created as a troubled man consistently haunted by his past. A combination of his edginess and Sarah’s narrative of their classes together worked well to construct this character. George was performed by the director owing to a last minute change, but had I not known this, I would have thought he had been excellently cast. I enjoyed the nervous energy that he carried consistently as this added suspense. The character of Mrs White offered some captivating monologues, particularly at the very opening of the show which succeeded in really drawing the audience into the piece.
Another highlight of the work was its unusual narrative technique. Throughout the piece, whilst John was conducting his lesson, he would be frequently interrupted by Sarah’s voice from the future offering flashbacks on her time with John. This style added to the depth of the piece as voices from past and present overlapped each other in the same space successfully, and it was exciting to see a student writer being so bold with their work and trying new styles.
My main criticism of The Practice Room would be its lack of light and shade in performance. Although the script had many emotive moments, performances remained very much on one level throughout, with only fleeting crescendos towards the end. For a performance with only four characters and one location, the piece required variation from other areas of the production, which could have come in the form of changes in tempo and volume from the actors. I also would have liked more details of the relationship between John and his piano teacher, as this was central to the play. The play built up to the reason why the two had fallen out, but were left in the dark as to why John’s teacher had reacted in the way that he did. The play did finish considerably before its expected running time, and therefore it could be inferred that these details were in the original script but were missed due to errors in performance.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Practice Room. Its deep character exploration gave the audience lots to think about, and the gradual dropping of hints into John’s past created mystery and intrigue. I very much hope that this writer will provide the St Andrews stage with more of his work.
Carla van der Sluijs
Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/events/1423877974574604/