With The Barron full to capacity, clearly Christopher Durang’s The Actor’s Nightmare was a very popular choice for the Friday evening of the Fresher’s Drama Festival. The cast had a lot of people to impress, and they didn’t disappoint.
We were first introduced to the character of an accountant, George (although he was not convinced that was his real name) played by Jannik Brachmann. George has somehow found himself backstage in a theatre, where he has been mistaken for the understudy. Before he can protest, George is thrown onstage, struggling through what appears to be a mashup of Private Lives, Checkmate, Hamlet and A Man for All Seasons. Overall, this made for very confusing viewing for the audience. We were never actually told why there are multiple plays going on at once. Perhaps if this was clarified, it would have been easier to understand. However, it could be argued that this confusion was deliberate, mirroring the confusion felt by the character of George.
Jannik gave a very convincing performance. He seemed to perfectly capture the essence of a socially awkward man, unsure of his situation and his identity. He particularly shone during what was supposed to be Hamlet’s soliloquy, when he instead told us about his childhood, what it was like attending a Catholic school, and the fact that he almost joined a monastery, but, as he put it, ‘I don’t know many Catholic adults.’
Madison Hauser was grand, over the top, and at times utterly ridiculous, playing the role of the diva-like Sarah very well.
Kate Mcgregor, who played the actress Ellen, also deserves mention. While not as bold as Madison’s performance, her starring moment was near the end, in Checkmate, where her dramatic reading of stage directions had the audience in stitches.
One criticism I would make of the cast in general is that initially lines seemed a little rushed, however the whole cast grew more confident and convincing as the play went on. Furthermore, the ending seemed a little too abrupt, with none of us in the audience really expecting it.
Despite these minor issues, I was impressed with the performance, and I have no doubt that the cast will do very well in future Mermaids productions.