Jo Boon reviews Molière’s The Pretentious Young Ladies, one of Freshers Drama Festival week’s plays, which she found extremely pleasant to see.
Two years ago almost to the day I was about to embark on the debut of my own fresher’s play and I always look forward to seeing what the new talents of St Andrews will produce. Having been through the process I know it can be a daunting one, but this play, the first play of Mermaids Freshers Drama Festival, surpassed expectations. I hope they have set the tone for an exciting week of theatre and they certainly opened the cycle of fresher’s plays with a bang.
Staged in the Barron, our black box theatre was the perfect place for this one‐act satire by Molière. The two pretentious young ladies are Magdelon, played by Nell Carter, and Cathos, played by Tessa King. They have come to Paris in search of love and high culture. Gorgibus, played by Alice Gold, who is the mother of Magdelon and aunt of Cathos, decides they should marry a pair of eligible young men, but the two women find them unrefined and despair at them for their poor attempts at love making. Naturally, the men vow to take revenge but on stage comes Mascarille, a young man who pretends to be a wealthy and sophisticated member of society (spoiler: Magdelon falls in love with him). Next on stage comes another young man, Jodelet! (Spoiler: Cathos falls in love). Ultimately, it is revealed that these two men are impostors who are really just the valets of the first two men who were rejected. The two young ladies are ashamed at having fallen for the trick and are sent to hide from the world while Gorgibus swoons at this disgrace.
The acting was consistent throughout, if a little lacking in confidence at times, as is perhaps to be expected from a first performance. Alice Gold stood out to me as exceptional, her highly dramatized style may perhaps be suited to a larger theatre but her energy and characterisation never wavered for a moment. She reeled the audience into her world of middle class, middle-aged Parisian boredom with her cheeky sips from a hip flask and sly readings of 50 Shades of Grey, an insightful and humorous addition by the director, Isabelle Duff. The directing itself was impressive, not only was all the basic blocking down to a smoothly running art but the characterisation work had clearly been thorough and credit to whoever taught the actors to dance so well.
The play could have been produced very simply but there was an attention to detail I really appreciated while watching it and I hope to see the producers, Polly Windsor, Valeria Ryabchina and Antonia Wade, go on to do more. Whether it was the light fading into a spotlight on Gorgibus and back out to the whole stage as she collapsed backwards, or the bright pink matching dresses of the pretentious young ladies, care had clearly been taken throughout. The set was fairly simple which allowed for attention to be drawn to these beautiful costumes and did not take away from the comedy of the fast paced lines. There were a couple of moments when the actors lost their place or slipped up but they never slipped out of character and that is to be commended.
On the whole, this was a great way to kick off the Freshers Drama Festival week and I look forward to seeing what this talented group of actors and production team will go on to do next in St Andrews.