Samantha Harper spends a side-splitting evening reviewing Richard Bean’s wonderfully comedic play, One Man, Two Guvnors.Read More
Kyra Ho reviews Eventide, a new student-written production, at this year’s Fringe Festival.
Eventide was a pretty fifty minutes of theatre that hadn’t quite figured itself out yet.
A new piece by Sasha Mann, to be found in the children’s category of Fringe shows, it followed Eliza Drake’s struggle to come to terms with the growing distance between her and her sister, unpicked through her conversations with fairy visitors. It touched very lightly on the shifting ways we look at life when we are young, so lightly, in fact, as to be ultimately unaffecting. At times it seemed unsure of itself as a show and what it was trying to do.
There was a disparity between the script and the execution, which would leave neither adult nor child fully satisfied. The former was apparently unaware of how to hold a child’s attention, in that it featured lengthy monologues of fable-like stories whilst nothing else happened on stage. A lot of the acting, however, was reminiscent of children’s entertainers, to the point where Isabella Zeff‘s portrayal of Eliza was that of a caricatured child.
That said, there was a genuine sweetness to the play. In terms of pure aesthetics, it was lovely to look at. The careful positioning of actors in the dimness meant there were moments of almost freeze-frame where I felt as if I were looking at old photographs, which fit well with the theme of holding onto childhood memories. The twinkly shelves laden with childhood remnants and fairy tale paraphernalia and the subtle sounds of the outside world separated by a constant buzz did well to establish a vaguely magical atmosphere, making the bedroom setting seem otherworldly. Rosie Beech’s vocal acting was strong and soothing, and well suited to her role as the eponymous fairy.
The same cannot be said for the rest of the cast, who had some trouble with pacing and delivery; there was little variation in big blocks of speech and lines of emotional importance were not given time to breathe. There was also little chemistry between Eliza and her fairy friends, something that should have driven the emotional and nostalgic feel of the play. This seemed mostly due to actors not listening to each other, and to inexcusable moments of inconsistency, such as Harry Johnson’s Decaye only remembering their illness and to cough when it was their line.
Lighting choices were a little on-the-nose, and a bit too harsh, made worse by the fact that there was so much lighting used, and rarely interestingly. In a fantasy-based play one does not want to be conscious of tech, as it takes us out of the story, but I was very aware of light changes which distracted from the experience of the show.
The cast were clearly well-rehearsed and had been meticulously blocked by director Minoli de Silva, who had obviously been full of ideas. Unfortunately, it seemed these ideas mostly fell flat. The main issue was that the play didn’t seem to be saying much, and the little that it did wasn’t said in a particularly entertaining way.
Kyra Ho has an entertaining night at The Fringe, reviewing Forbidden Fruit, a Mermaids-sponsored production by TBD Theatre.
Forbidden Fruit’s humour and enjoyability largely came down to the cast’s impressive execution and interpretation of a frankly unremarkable script.
The premise of TBD’s production is a rotating, audience-assigned cast; each actor must be able to play any of the five parts. The plot, centred loosely on a countess’ boredom, aversion to marriage and subsequent attraction to a lothario Rosario, is not what makes the show the immense crowd-pleaser it is. Credit for that must be given to the undeniable chemistry between the actors and their clear joy in performing.
The show begins with an explanation of the production and an introduction to the actors, which gives a sense of individuality to each performance, as the audience is able to recognise flashes of actors’ personalities in their interpretations. This made the production seem more versatile, suggesting that characters would be played differently according to the actor, rather than having fully pre-defined roles, giving it a genuineness that audience-interactive plays sometimes lack, and revealing the immense comic talent of every actor. Special mention must be made of Louis Wilson, whose spirit was such that his bumbling notary character was almost unrecognisable from the actor that introduced the play.
Marketed as an attempt to defy genre and convention, the play mostly achieves this in its demonstration of the irrelevance of sex when playing a traditionally gendered role. Specifically, Lydia Milne demonstrated a real understanding of farce and traditional male characters, playing the womaniser archetype with a professionalism that made us attentive to her lines without straying into pantomime territory. Webb-Jenkins’ generous eye-contact with the audience, however, was unmistakably pantomime - but this was excused by her charm and ease on stage, which the audience lapped up.
Director Amy Addinall should be commended for her attention to detail in this well-rehearsed and thoughtfully directed production, given the sparsity of the play’s original stage directions. It was difficult to discern whether the little details in the interaction between the characters were directorial choices or ad-lib from the actors, which added even more to the cohesive nature of the show. There was a delightful blend of the traditional and modern, from the typical choice of regional accents (Northern for the maid and Bristolian for the servant) to the anachronistic dance-flirting, which reminded the audience that the show was very aware and critical of convention. Set and costume were minimal and appropriate, and the lighting was effective so as to go largely unnoticed, as it should be in a not-so-thought-provoking comedy.
The production was very much fringe-appropriate; it is at home with an audience wanting and willing to laugh at jokes of the low hanging fruit variety (pardon the pun). Many of the laughs came from sexual innuendo and slapstick, so for those after something warm and ridiculous, Forbidden Fruitentertains and ends too soon.
Hilary Chan spends an evening reviewing BoxedIn’s production of Macbeth in the StAge.
The thrilling success of BoxedIn Theatre's Macbeth is due to a triad of insightful artistic sense, strong actors and brilliant theatrical design. This production plays out Shakespeare's gory classic in a corporation: on the 100th anniversary of the family-run Colmekill Inc., everyone awaits the return of the thriving businessman, Macbeth, to congratulate his success. But his arrival is anticipated by three other pairs of cunning eyes, each with riddles on their lips to warn Macbeth of his doom. As the night goes on, how will the promise of power and glory twist the fate of this hungry feast?
An adaptation like this redefines power, and the violence it entails, in a more relevant context. It is not avant-garde; corporations have been the subject of anxiety since the last century. But it is palatable and sparks just enough interest to draw the audience in. And it is more than worthy of interest. The stage is at the centre of the audience, seated along four sides so that the drama is "boxed in" by its observers. The integrative format is, again, not a novelty, but a technical challenge that was nicely achieved by the director, and well-adapted to by the actors. Although the effect falls slightly behind its full potential to inspire new meaning, its aesthetic value was effective and well-exploited: the streak of light leaking from Duncan's bedroom door, situated on the actual stage and thus interacting with the space below, falls squarely on the conflicted Macbeth, as in a daze, he follows his dagger onto the lit trajectory.
Bailey Fear is a spectacular Macbeth. His seething frustration, sometimes suppressed into an unnatural composure, sometimes bursting with vulnerability to his vice, makes him a wonderful candidate. Shakespeare's play is a constant dialogue between the willful playwright and the omnipotent fate that disdains freewill, and Macbeth is the emotional sponge that absorbs all the pain in this process. Lydia Seed, who plays Lady Macbeth, is a delight to watch as usual. It is pleasant to see that she does not neglect the gradient of her role's personality as the play goes on. The individual strength of these protagonists are amplified in their collaboration, a power couple with the cruel chemistry between them.
The rest of the cast, the three witches for instance, are well placed according to their strengths. It is a pity to know that the producer, Sarah Chamberlain, will not be offering her work in St Andrews for the near future. BoxedIn Theatre's production of Macbeth brings student theatre in St Andrews to a new level, unlikely to be reproduced for a while.
Hilary Chan reviews Mermaids’ recent production of Arthur Miller’s famous play, The Crucible, in the Byre.
Staging The Crucible was an audacious decision on the director's part. ArthurMiller's timeless retelling of Salem's witch trials in 17th centuryMassachusetts, which descends into delirious, senseless slaughter, is aleviathan in the literary realm, coldly judging history again and again in arobe of splendiferous artistic achievement. This is a play that confronts thecollective and shakes it twice: as Salem spirals into mass executions, itquestions our ethics towards the physical and our mental vulnerability tocommunal madness. At the same time, it does not neglect to abuse the individualin its path of soul-searching, or to interrogate the complex strings of loveand duty within a family. The Crucible is an utterly ruthless play,vicious like its own Abigail as it browbeats the audience relentlessly. And forthis reason the Mermaids' production is good—but simply not good enough.
That is less a fault of its student crew and castthan the play's brilliant intensity. Many of the actors are unmistakablytalented. Martina Sardelli's presentation of Mercy Lewis was mean with juvenileduplicity, exactly as required. Mary Warren's cowardliness and childishinstability was mostly conveyed in Alexandra Upton's performance. Adam Spencer’srepresentation of Reverend Hale's bookish devotion is memorable; this pleasantmatch between an actor's physique and an iconic character was a good find onthe director’s part. The star of the show was Lydia Seed, who played ElizabethProctor. Her grasp of Elizabeth's contradictory power over justice, by rigorousself-discipline, was demonstrated in her mastery of subtle body language,facial expression and vocal delivery.
Unfortunately, Miller's play demands absolute perfection. Every minor character is a mystery on their own, and cannot tolerate simplification, something which was a detriment to this production. Additional peccadilloes include the projection of actors' voices, their lack of stage presence, body language and use of pauses, as well as the distraction of Giles’ walking stick being too short. These are forgivable sins for a student production but cannot be overlooked in a play that seeks to amplify and interrogate every corner of the human soul. Director Grace Cowie’s injection of humour through characters such as George Watts’s Ezekiel Cheever would be even more appreciated as a breather if the rest of the play had lived up to its intensity.
To conclude, Mermaids'production was very fine for what it was, but still fell too short forArthur Miller's The Crucible.
Matthew Gray reviews the Just So Society’s production of Into the Woods, which will be playing tonight, April 23, at 19:30 and tomorrow, April 24, at 17:00 in the StAge.
Forthose not familiar with the premise of Sondheim and Lapine’s Into the Woods, the 1986 musical followsthe quest of a Baker and his Wife to reverse a witch’s curse, overcoming theirinfertility and their insecurities to have a child. The titular ‘woods’ serveas the arena, an ambivalent space that brings together characters and tropesfrom some of the most infamous European fairy tales and forces those navigatingits winding paths to question and confront the consequences of their actionsand goals. Typical of Sondheim’s oeuvre, every song along the way is a perfectlycrafted character piece. Successively, each song further tests the limits andpossibilities of the characters navigating the stories mapped out for them. Thisis not typical bedtime fare. Into theWoods is a show rich in symbolism and subtext, a dream text which canreally allow directors to test limits and take the material as far as it canpossibly go. Here lies possibly my major (and admittedly only) complaint.
DirectorCaelan Mitchell-Bennett makes clear in his introductory note that he does not‘pretend that [he’s] got some insight into this show.’ While his candour is insome ways admirable, Woods fans whofound the 2014 Disney adaptation too ‘sanitised’ will no doubt be unable tofeel that several opportunities have been missed, especially those accustomedto the foregrounding of the darker and more subversive elements in the OriginalBroadway Production and even more so in the experimental 1990 Richard Jonesproduction (both work checking out on YouTube). This is not to say that theeuphemisms (and indeed ‘noteuphemisms’ in the case of two characters adjustingtheir bedraggled costumes following a not so subtle woodland tryst) are absent orignored. The signature subversive humour that has ensured the show’s longevityremains but for the most part it is never presented in a way that allows forgreater exploration, ultimately underselling the text. An exception must bemade for Coggin Galbreath and Miles Hurley’s divine turns as two Princes whoboth revel in chewing the scenery with a delicious chemistry which taps intoideas of homoerotic desires denied by the governing rules of toxic masculinity.The cast’s overall sound is pleasing and polished but at times they fail torealize the full dramatic potential of the musical numbers, which mightsometimes benefit from being less ‘pleasing and polished’ and more harsh andgravely.
Allthis aside however, there is so much to enjoy and celebrate in this productionthat I feel I must apologise for coming across as churlish. There is aphenomenal amount of talent and hard-work evident across the production.Stephanie Herron as Cinderella nails her material with ease and gives animpressive performance to match, drawing in the audience with eyes which seemto shift from caring to inquisitive and, at times, even to obsessive,considering she is both the first and last to declare a ‘wish’ across the show.The Baker’s Wife, Millie Postle, gives a nuanced and sympathetic rendition of ‘Momentsin the Woods’, crucial for the subsequent drama to be impactful, which it mostcertainly was. Her fictional husband, played by Daniel Jonusas, should also becommended for a performance which communicates his character’s insecuritieswith such ease that it seems almost trivial that he should then have to singabout them out loud. Hanna Lawson’s Red Riding Hood also emits both therequired laughs and winces from the audience as she wholly commits to thecaricature of a child who, shielded from the dangers of the world, is initiallyoblivious and spoilt, only to be perversely ‘enlightened’ in developments thattrouble her morality. Behind the scenes, Mitchell-Bennett’s creative prop workis both a source of laughter in its knowing acknowledgement of budgetaryconstraints and smiles in its endearing homemade approach. Noemie Jouas alsodemonstrates an impressive versatility and industrious attitude in the scope ofher bespoke costume work. Michael Medina, Sam Hatchell and Elizabeth Suen onpercussion and keyboard instruments must also be congratulated for theirimpressive ensemble and flexibility when accommodation for performance timingwas required.
Whilestaging ‘in the round’ also might be easily dismissed as a fashionable gimmickimposing itself on a large number of recent StAge productions, it enhances thisshow in multiple ways. Foremost, the practical constraints of actors beingforced to enter from the corner they last exited disturbs a continuity ofspace, which works in the show’s favour by making the woods a disorientingspace from which any combination of characters could stumble upon each other.This also enables the decision to have actors already onstage as the audienceenter makes the most of the show’s ‘immediate’ start, capitalised on further bythe narrator as he teasingly delays that crucial ‘Once Upon a Time…’ byflicking through a book or munching at an apple. Some of the choreography alsodemonstrates an awareness of the set-up and strives to make it an integral andenhancing creative decision.
Thereis clearly a lot to admire and celebrate then in this solid presentation of amodern classic. A couple of issues with microphones and sound balance, as wellas some uncertain timings between singers and musicians in the earlier numbers,were clearly the result of first-night jitters and it is without a doubt thatthis show will only tighten and improve with each subsequent performance. It is thereforewithout hesitation that I recommend you head on over to the StAge if youhaven’t already and catch this fabulous production, which, whilst it may notexplore the full potentials of the material, offers a wonderful introduction(or reminder) to just how accomplished this continually-relevant show reallyis.
Matthew Gray, Cate Casalme and Henry Crabtree review some of the weekend events that rounded up this year's festival.
Strictly Come Dancing
One of On The Rocks' signature events had Matthew Gray cha-cha-cha-ing all the way home.
As soon as audience members entered The StAge to be greeted by the spirited rhythms of Mambo that set the scene pre-show, we could all knew we were in for an entertaining afternoon.
On The Rocks presentsStrictly Come Dancing is such a strong and well-executed idea that one cansee why it has become an annual event. Part of its success comes from therecognisable elements from the television namesake that feature throughout:glitzy costumes, upbeat covers of familiar pop songs. Even the token ‘mean’judge Craig Revel Horwood has a counterpart in Tom Schnabel, appropriatelyattired in all-black costume and in the mould of most reality television, toneddown by the more ‘sympathetic’ female counterparts, Pim and Elisa.
And yet in this university setting, the familiar, heteronormative formula is presented with a knowing wink and nudge that contributes to the fun of the show. Even the twee 'Keep Dancing' sign-off is teased throughout but only appears right at the end – a satisfying touch.
The extra layer of entertainment comes from the coded‘Battle of the BNOCs’ that takes place though, because while spending up to£100 to be seen with a VIP pass at an event is all well and good, nothingreally demonstrates your mettle like a well-choreographed cha-cha-cha, as the shows various first-time ‘celebrity’ guestsdemonstrated. Coming from a multitude of backgrounds, ranging from Friends of MSF to Cross-country captainsto improv actors from Blind Mirth, these familiar faces presented a smorgasbordof ballroom styles that included graceful waltzes in multiple styles alongsidebouncier quicksteps and jives, one of which even managed to incorporate anumbrella in creative fashion. These were all accompanied by welcome commentsfrom the judges on the technical elements of the choreographies.
One of the loveliest things I’ve noticed about On the Rocks across various events is that the audiences seem to bring with them a certain receptiveness and ‘anything goes’ attitude that energises the events and Strictly certainly was enlivened by the cheerful interjections of spectators which encouraged the dancers. This was sometimes heightened by the event’s two charismatic judges. However, their determination to find a joke in every detail of the afternoon sometimes felt a little laboured and intruded on the actual meat of the show: the dancing.
As well as the judges’ verdicts, the audience were alsoinvited to cast a vote and while these were being counted, we were all treatedto performances from BALLADS members. These included a spirited jazz dance fromFrederico Mazzola, which had everyone grinning for the entire duration, and afiery routine from two of the judges themselves, who demonstrated all thestyles seen across the afternoon in a three-minute medley which sustained schmoulderingtheatrics throughout.
Congratulations to Gabriel Uboldi, Head of Events for the OTR festival, who with his elegant partner Leonie Have presented a provocative cha-cha which had all the ladies in the audience (and admittedly, this reviewer) whooping and wolf-whistling. It was heartening to see the strong chemistry between them and all the other couples dancing - one really got the sense that new friendships had been made throughout the rehearsal process. The final congratulations must however go to all the celebrities. Isobel, Kiana, Sasha, Avery and Gabriele who all delivered entertaining and fun performances which, considering the impressively limited rehearsal time afforded, deserves to be commended. It’s a 10 from me, darlings!
Groovy Green Golf
Cate Casalme single-handedly revives our Sports Section by going to see what Groovy Green Golf was all about.
Every year, OTR works with kids around the St. Andrews area for the festival and this year they showcased their work in the Groovy Green Golf event. With a low budget, the Groovy Green Golf committee came up with the ingenious plan of creating a golf course made of recycled materials. The course was placed in the Byre Theatre with the committee taking full advantage of the UV lights.
The course itself was fun- and quite difficult!- as participants used inflatable pool items to put the ball through a castle, bowling pins, and Big Ben while each level was surrounded by the artwork of the various children’s groups. Kudos to the committee for such a funky event!
Inklight: Pound Poems
Henry Crabtree went along to check out Inklight's annual event.
One of over 40 events annually, On The Rock’s “Pound Poems” returned for the festival this year. A fan favourite, taking place at the students’ union last week and popular North Street coffee shop Taste this week, the event provides festival attendees with charming short pieces of poetry. An interactive exhibit of the arts and culture in St Andrews, “Pound Poems” was staffed by volunteers from Inklight, the creative writing society, and their volunteers proved friendly and welcoming with people who wanted their own poem for just £1.
Attendees were served with their very own personalised poem on the spot, to their own theme or about them and their hobbies, through the oft-forgotten medium of typewritten poetry: a lovely commemorative piece to take home from On The Rocks, made by members adept at crafting beautifully-presented creative writing.
At The Tribe we'd like to thanks On The Rocks for a great week of events and for all their cooperation with press for events.
Elliot Douglas reviews Calypso, Phoebe Angeni's one-woman performance art show.
On The Rocks is slowly coming to a stylish end after a week of diverse and exciting performances, and to round off my own personal week I was witness to one of the best pieces of art I have seen in my five years at St Andrews. Framed against a pink sunset, Phoebe Angeni’s self-composed piece of performance art Calypso on Castle Sands left a chilly and supportive audience in breathless rapture.
Angeni had clearly had a word with Mother Nature herself because, after being cancelled owing to bad weather last week, the great Weather Goddess in the sky was very much on Angeni’s side on the last Saturday of the festival. Yes, there was a strong wind blowing (when isn’t there in St Andrews?) but the sun reflected against the clouds and slowly-encroaching tide made me wonder, for at least a moment, if I had actually been transported to a Greek island. The audience were led down from the clifftops in groups, to find a large fire, a mysterious stone circle and Angeni herself, resplendent in a flowery kimono-style garment and black underwear.
The show itself comprised poetry, singing, dance and movement. The repetitive nature of the poetry, influenced by Flarf, drove the message home a little too clearly at times, but Angeni’s delivery and self-belief stopped this from being problematic. Defiantly making eye contact with the audience, she dared them to laugh at her – dared them to not take seriously the message of self-love and feminist relationship with nature which she so passionately believed in. In that moment, as the graceful Yogi moved her body around the fire circle, you couldn’t help but take her message seriously. Cynicism would have been even more ridiculous.
The audience was beckoned to follow her over the space of the beach, at one point close to the water’s edge while Angeni performed a balancing act around the edges of the old swimming pool which defines Castle Sands. I caught my breath a few times, wondering if the barefoot goddess would slip on the wet, seaweed-covered rocks. I’m happy to report that she didn’t.
In a magnificent strip tease on the top of a rock, Angeni ended the show as the sun began to disappear, somehow managing to prevent her skin from turning blue as the bundled-up audience in front of her shivered into the sand. She ended the show by inviting us to come closer to the fire and warm up. A one-woman show is hard to pull off, especially without the advantage of special effects of staging, but Angeni managed to keep a large audience enraptured over thirty minutes. She can leave her final St Andrews show proud of having achieved something unique, astonishing and – I strongly believe – important.
Culture Editor Yu Ching Yau reviews Mermaids' production of Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage as part of On The Rocks.
Having first acquainted myself with this story through the film adaptation years ago, I was eagerly anticipating the same fast-paced, sharp wit from this production of God of Carnage directed by Emma Gylling Mortensen, and I was not disappointed. The play, originally written by Yasmina Reza, opens with a meeting of the Novak and Raleigh couples as they write up a legal statement addressing a playground incident between their sons Henry and Benjamin, where the latter hit the former with a stick after a verbal altercation. This simple premise proves to be a solid foundation for comedy gold as the parents pick apart the nuances of the situation, hilariously turning the incident into a huge morality and philosophy debate, all the while trying to keep it together as civilised adults – but what does that even mean?
The play wastes no time in getting the first laughswhen Alan (Guy Harvey) opposes the wording in the statement of his son being“armed with a stick”, resulting in Veronica (Sarah Chamberlain) suggesting“furnished” as a compromise. Indeed, there is no word more fitting as theNovaks’ living room has been perfectly furnished in typical bourgeois fashion.Apart from the simple wooden drawing table and drinking cabinet off to theside, there is a coffee table armed with art history volumes and a vase oftulips (flown straight from Holland everyday), all against a very appropriatebackdrop of pastel patterned wallpaper.
For most of the play’s first half, the collectiveeffort of all except Alan to keep a polite façade in the face of ridiculoussituations made it easy to keep the audience entertained, successfullydelivering gems such as a discussion about whether children are savages andwhether Michael (Benjamin Osugo) is a murderer for releasing his son’s hamsterinto the urban wilderness past his doorstep. The flow was perhaps slightlylulled by the long phone calls made by Alan, which, while a necessary part ofthe plot and his characterisation, seemed to require a stronger delivery to holdthe attention of the audience. Otherwise, the whole cast gave solidperformances and played off each other very well.
The complete ugly turn of everyone giving in to thebrutal honesty of their basic nature came at just the right time, as theintroduction of alcohol and a jaw-dropping vomiting spectacle from Annette(Lydia Milne) causes the characters’ composures to unravel completely at adelightfully alarming pace, best demonstrated by Veronica’s extremely liberalspraying of deodorant post-vomit incident. Hypocrisies are exposed on bothsides as it becomes apparent their marriages are less than ideal, and briefalliances form between the husbands and wives in the face of criticism fromtheir spouses, resulting in another childishly funny scene after Annettefinally dunks her husband’s phone in the vase of tulips and Michaelhalf-heartedly attempts to blow-dry it while the women drunkenly cackle in thebackground.
This production of God of Carnage clearly achieved the goal of the original play,which is to not only entertain by making adults enact playground drama, butalso coax the audience into giving proper thought to the questions proposed bythe characters. Should children be held responsible for all of their actions?Are adults any different when they handle problems with violence? Are we alljust slaves to the god of carnage? Why should we give a fuck at the end of theday? The characters don’t find any answers at the conclusion, but the playseems to answer the last one – we should all care about these questions becausethey are an examination of our humanity and by extension, society. In a timewhen world leaders and other people in positions of extreme power behave morechildishly than ever, this is a play that is sorely needed.
Elliot Douglas reviews the Bell Pettigrew tour whilst Yu Ching Yau reviews the Bell Pettigrew Sessions
Bell Pettigrew Tour Review Elliot Douglas
The Bell Pettigrew Museum is a hidden gem of St Andrews which I am, on some level, loath to see opened up to the general public, given its current status as a secret study space for me. Nevertheless, it is fantastic to see spaces like this used in new and unusual ways. This On The Rocks festival saw two different performances take place there: A Performance Tour of the museum and a jam session with Music Is Love.
Bryn Jackson-Farrer and his team with the performance tour did a wonderful job in educating and entertaining the public. With numbers kept to a tight minimum, over three tours in one evening, St Andrews stalwart Oli Savage served as the first tour guide, welcoming us into the space with typically engaging and ingratiating style. His fellow hosts were a little less comfortable in their roles, and there were a few line stumbles and nervous moments apparent as they talked us through the history of the exhibits in the Bell Pettigrew Museum. The frequent change of host kept the audience guessing and kept us moving around the space, largely allowing us to see the entire space and the most important exhibits in a crisp 20 minutes. Having seen the specimens on more than one occasion, some of the facts were a little underwhelming to me, and I wish that the dramatic aspects of the show could have taken up more time. We experiences a meeting with the bearded Dr Bell Pettigrew himself and watced his attempt to fly, and Savage told a tear-jerking story about a lonely cassowary, but largely the content was purely informational. Nevertheless, the event was a great way to use and showcase such a little-known space.
Bell Pettigrew Sessions - Music is Love x MUSA Yu Ching Yau
There is no better way than this to experience the Bell Pettrigrew museum for the first time. It was a delightful surprise to find that the overwhelmingly vast collection of colourful animal displays, brightly lit in a blue-green hue, perfectly complemented the simple combination of singing and acoustic instrumentation. The display room not only provided a comfortable level of intimacy but also created an acoustic environment that elevated the stripped-down folksy style of music to an ethereal level as the melodies swelled to fill every corner of the room. Making it a non-ticketed event contributed to the laid-back vibe as audience members floated in and out of the room between songs. It is a credit to the musicians that there was a captivated audience even as I arrived one hour into the event, unfortunately missing Casper Sanderson's set but managing to catch the tail end of Evelyn Benson's performance and the beginning of Finfolk’s forty-five minute set. Having only formed two months ago, the band comprising of vocals, a violin, mandolin, acoustic guitar, cello and drums (not present on the day), left the audience thoroughly impressed with a vast repertoire of covers and originals, my favourites being "Lonesome Moonlight Waltz" and a sweet version of “You are my sunshine”. It’s a shame that the organisers seemed to have accidentally cut the evening short as a misleading announcement led audiences to quickly filter out even as a final performer was due to take the stage.
Hudson Cleveland reviews A Crown of Laurels, a play that attempts to stimulate dialogue about sexual assault.
Making reference to the Greek mythology surrounding laurel leaves, “A Crown of Laurels” brings the epic down to a contemporary earth in a quotidian rendition focusing on the psychological toll of sexual assault on Daphne (Eleanor Burke). Wax leaves scattered across the StAge, we are constantly reminded visually of the classical roots of the production. While it perhaps takes too much time reaching its climactic scene - the sexual assault of Daphne by Olly (Coggin Galbreath), an assault circumvented in the original myth by ridding Daphne of her own body - the length of stage-time the build-up takes compared to the assault and its aftermath puts forward the sense that the traumatic event is one which hijacked an entire life.
In terms of the production itself, there were highs and lows, many of which were contingent on the 360 degree style of seating the StAge is. While in a way the surrounding of the performance by the audience implicates us as viewers, particularly with the occasional interaction of the performers with the spectators, the staging also pushes against the intention. Eleanor Burke’s earnestly delivered monologues (accompanied by Lavie Rabinowitz’s excellent musical compositions, which imbricates Daphne’s monologues with vaguely ominous tones) vacillate on occasion between talking-to-oneself and talking-to-the-audience, and the latter especially felt like the poorer decision to land on considering the already-mentioned implication of the audience, and considering as well the absolute limit at which audience interaction can occur without disruption to the overall performance. When this limit is probed, the performance stagnates at some key moments - and breaking past the limit would likely have in effect broken down the play itself.
In part, this can be blamed on the StAge as a venue, which clearly alone caused some minor asynchronicity in terms of lighting, musical, entry and exit cues. Though the 360 degrees of spectatorship makes for interesting implications and excellent imagery - one of which was being able to see offstage the ominous, frozen stance of the paint-spattered, darkly-lit figure of Olly staring at Daphne as she shuddered and spoke after the sexual assault - it poses a serious challenge for any director, one which was tackled admirably in this instance for all its resultant (ultimately) insignificant technical issues.
Finally, however, this production is politically charged: how well did it approach the topic of sexual assault? While it fleshes out the life of a victim both before and after with supreme detail and empathy, and Coggin Galbreath’s natural romanticist charm accurately underscores how anyone can still be a monster when they do not understand the fundamental notion of bodily autonomies outside of their own, this feels like a lesson being preached to the choir given its being performed in front of a primarily student audience. There’s zero harm in reaffirming the narratives of victims of sexual assault, but at some point this reaffirmation needs to be pushed a step further, perhaps with a look toward deeper systemic ills rather than the singular perpetrators of sexual assault who are (rightly) ostracised. Though the playbill claims the production responds to the fact that “Western culture has celebrated individuals it deems successful (mostly men) by crowning them with laurel wreaths,” it seems by the end to stop just short of diving into this more provocative and introspective subject matter.
Hilary Chan reviews the stand up comedians performing as part of the On the Rocks festival
Stand-up is a nerve-wrecking business: one stands stranded under the spotlight attempting the most controversial deed—being funny. For On The Rocks festival, Comedy Society put on its most experienced comedians to humour the audience. It is not a ticklish audience, (because this does still take place in St Andrews), references to popular culture and jokes bordering on the crude often go unnoticed (because audience demography), audience response did not evident the strongest rapport. Christoph, Aoife, Tom, Mark, Bobby and Gabriel deserve an ovation for at least their courage and effort put behind their performances.
But the audience problem is one that every budding comedian must face; it takes a Ricky Gervais or Stephen Colbert for the self-motivated type of listener. So it became slightly repetitive when the comedians referred to this difficulty one after another, either as a preamble or the joke itself. Repetition between the gigs was in fact one of the biggest flaws. Because they were indeed the most experienced of the comedians, topics revolved career prospects (meek), being old, graduation, depression, depression, depression.
They are no doubt on the right track; comedy, for both comedian and audience, should be a form of therapy. At the most advanced circles of professional comedians, the fact that depression and deprivation is what unites these laughter-making humans is still an active joke. Perhaps depression is even at the very heart of comedy. But if this is the case, then it is ever more so important for comedians to develop nuanced ways to hammer at this emotional nucleus. All art attacks what is inhumane. Comedy is a form of art, laughter is its weapon towards this goal, and the instability of happiness and unhappiness is its special privilege (among other art forms). Our comedians, though only part-time, should look deeper and take their fun more academically.
All the comedians came across with some distinct persona. Christoph is an integration of his design and his performance. Aoife is a composed senior who knows herself and deadpan about it. Tom is a problematic child turned skilful comedian. Bobby is a birdwatcher with half of social life confessing his obsessions as a birdwatcher. There's something wrong with Mark and he's brilliant about it (he knows what that something is, but he'll never tell you, so you're always a little afraid of him, but can't help laughing at his jokes. He was my favourite). Gabriel is a teenager bursting with commentary. These characterisations are exaggerated and based only on tonight's show; the comedians should know themselves better and show it. Our comedians are natural and as students, relate to their audience in a special way; but comedy needs to be more than just a pep-talk, it is a performance.
Editor in Chief Elliot Douglas reviews The Aspects Theatre Company's performance of Twelfth Night.
Only once in my life have I performed onstage in my second language, and only then did I make it through with severalglasses of red wine in the interval (cast against type as a heterosexual Naziin the Austrian play Tales of the ViennaWoodlands – pictures on request). I found the experience incrediblydifficult, so I can only take my hat off to the cast members of On The Rocks’ Twelfth Night, who managed this featwith panache and professionalism which belied the fact that English was theirsecond language.
The Aspects theatre company, a group ofItalian high school students, reached out to On The Rocks to enquire aboutcollaborating for a theatre production, and On The Rocks responded beautifully.The UK’s biggest student-run arts festival have now gone international, withthis being the first cross-country collaboration and, I’m sure they will hope,not the last.
The simplified, pared-down version of theShakespeare classic was made wondrous by the sheer joy of the entire cast, evidentlyexcited to be performing for an English-speaking audience in Scotland (and on aremarkably sunny day). The adaptation mixed modern music and even dance numbersin, giving them a chance to show off more than just their acting talents. Costumesand make-up were appropriate, and given that the students have travelled fromItaly to be here, the minimalist set, provided by a slideshow, was a stroke ofgenius.
In terms of acting, the commanding Olivia,snippy Malvolio and cape-wearing Count Orsino were stand-out stars of the show,while Sir Toby Belch, sporting a fine fake moustache and beard, brought a greatdeal of physical comedy to the uproarious play. But the real strength of thisshow lay in its ensemble, with the cast’s enthusiasm for the text and theproduction and willingness to work together clearly shining through.
Yes, the cavernous StAge meant that some lines got lost; yes, there were a few problems with pronunciation and blocking – but none of that mattered given the cast’s inability to faulter. At moments where I have often seen far more weathered actors stumble or simply give up, this young troupe powered through, helped each other out, and recounted beautifully one of Shakespeare’s liveliest comedies.
The production was followed by a discussion with two academics from the Schools of Modern Languages and English, but the best part of the show was seeing the beaming students as they bowed at the end of the production, having achieved something fun. I look forward to On The Rocks continuing such collaborations in future years, showing that the festival really does have something for people of all nationalities and age groups.
Social Media Editor Cate Casalme reviews On The Rocks' poetry-centric event.
My only experience with poetry readings is from my TV -- with Freddie Prinze Jr awkwardly watching Rachael Leigh Cook as she performs an over the top interpretive dance/spoken word performance in She’s All That. I half expect a dark room, with one bar stool and a microphone under a spotlight, and possibly fog. However, Poetry OTR proves to be the antithesis of such an event.
Walking into Sandy’s, I’m the twentieth person in the room with an ever growing line behind me. To be quite honest, I’m lucky to have even managed a seat. With the room at full capacity and the audience buzzing with excitement, the event is completely informal and without the pretentiousness one would associate with a poetry reading.
Whilst there were some readings of poetry by Plath and T.S. Eliot, the real spotlight of the event was the student poetry (each written and performed by Crews, Spunner, Rocha, Lacroix, Camia, Hutson, Herman, Jay, Brunner, Westfall, Winfrey, and McCullough). Poetry On The Rocks encouraged poets to open up and discuss topics that were close to them, from break-ups to the loss of a family member. Performed in one of the warmest audiences I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of, students were cheered on stage by an engaged and enthusiastic audience.
There were many St. Andrews inspired poems- from west sands to the St. Andrew’s Crushes page. However, my personal favourite would have to be the St. Andrews gossip inspired poem. A hilarious journey of how one St. Andrew’s secret is quickly spread. Poetry On The Rocks knows not to take itself too seriously, and with what is probably the perfect ending for the night, a solemn reading of “Cynthia” from 22 Jump Street was performed.
I would rate Poetry OTR as a truly successful event. Perfect for anyone, from poetry enthusiasts to part-time poets or even to those who just want to check it out, Poetry OTR was the highlight of my own personal On the Rocks festival experience and I hope to see it again in next year’s festival.
Samantha Harper reviews An Education, part of On the Rocks.
An Education, based on a film adaptation of Lynn Barber's memoir, follows a young girl navigating the trials of growing up both within a formal school environment as well as the outside world. Jenny (Eleanor Burke) meets an older man, David (Liam Smith), who shows her the world of art, music, and adulthood.
David is supposed to be a smooth talker who can con everyone around him. Smith did an excellent job; despite all David’s glaring faults you love him until you hate him. It’s not that hard to make me cry, but it is difficult to make my blood boil with rage: a feat Smith accomplished effortlessly. David, Danny (Felix Griffin Pain), and Helen (Mirrhyn Stephen) had great chemistry as a group and made objectively unlikeable characters enjoyable to watch. Jack (Charlie Flynn) and Marjorie (Francesca Ash) did a fabulous job as parents- Flynn was a remarkably convincing overbearing father and brought a measure of comedy to an otherwise serious show. Ash and Flynn had a great on-stage relationship and had nice character arcs throughout the play.
Burke’s leading role was another stand-out performance. She connected well with all the other actors and showed a brilliant level of depth. Jenny’s betrayal was heartfelt and poignant. Her ability to transition from childish school-girl to a grieving woman in the course of an evening was fantastic.
Overall, the actors in this production were fabulous- they connected well with each other and the story and really brought the play to life.
In between scenes we got snippets of jazz and black and white film of Paris and London. It was an interesting choice to set the scene. The set was simple but effective, using a split-level stage to expand the small space.
My only complaint has to do with the attention to detail. For such a wonderfully acted performance, there were several little issues that could have easily been eliminated. The actors often spoke quite quietly, especially during more intimate scenes. In such a such a small space as The STAge, no one should struggle to hear dialogue. Often actors would go to leave before the stage had gone completely dark or jump between scenes just a little too quickly. These issues are a quick fix and would bring the production to a new level.
The script itself was also wonderful, with natural and powerful language and a lovely monologue from Burke at the end. I was very impressed to learn that a student, Minoli De Salva, had adapted the play from the film.
Overall, I found An Education to be a wonderful story with powerful acting from all involved. I would definitely recommend seeing the final night performance.
Liliana Potter reviews High School Musical, staged as part of On The Rocks at the Byre Theatre.
High School Musical needs no introduction. A beloved of many since the film's initial release in 2006, the Byre Theatre was absolutely buzzing on the opening night of the Just So Society’s production.
This Disney classic tells a love story between high school jock Troy Bolton, and the nerdy newcomer Gabriella, as they defy the ‘status quo’ to sing in the - wait for it - high school musical. It’s just as cheesy as it sounds, so I was already excited for a fun slice of 2000s escapism.
This adaptation included some fresh additions, including a radio announcer character (an ebullient Jet Chew, who would have perhaps benefited from slowing down his rapid-fire delivery) alongside old favourites such as Ms. Darbus (the ever-wonderful Alice Gold). Overall, the cast worked heroically within the confines of what is, even compared to the film, an immensely gauche script. As East High’s central couple, Beckett Hunecke and Bethan Evans as Troy and Gabriella had a sweet, shy chemistry. They were well supported by their earnest friends (lead by Sarah Johnston and Daniel Heidland) and foes alike; here, Linus Erbach’s hard-done-by Ryan not only jazz squares, but hits death drops. ‘Fabulous’ indeed! Alongside Hannah Gilchrist’s remarkably film-accurate Sharpay, the two provide a school-ruling power duo.
Clearly, staging High School Musical was a dream fulfilled for the production team, and it was frustrating to see their hard work overshadowed by some issues. I felt bad for the male actors, who sometimes struggled with pitch in the tenor-heavy score. First night microphone hiccups are also expected, but it was a shame nonetheless to lose chunks of dialogue to this.
These issues were best overcome with the timeless adage “We're All in This Together” - the show thrived in its lively ensemble numbers, propelled by the boundless energy of the chorus and band. An energy boost throughout could have taken the smaller numbers to the same level.
If your On the Rocks checklist involves nostalgia, basketball choreography, and an overall fun night, High School Musical: On Stage! does the job nicely. I’m wishing everyone the best of luck in shooting onwards and upwards from first night nerves and unfortunate teething issues.
Editor-in-Chief Elliot Douglas offers his take on what to look out for at this year's festival.
St Andrews' very own student arts festival starts today and The Tribe will be offering daily coverage of some of the events. But for those of you who can't decide what to go to see, see below for our recommendations of some of the most interesting events that this year offers.
- An Education - 7th and 8th April, 7.30pm, The St.Age
I love this film and I love student-written theatre, so a stage adaption of the Nick Hornby film by St Andrews' own Minoli De Salva obviously has me in bits. Stalwart of the theatre scene Ellie Burke is sure to make a capable Jenny, and this story of a young woman coming of age is intensely relatable for anyone at university.
2. Inklight - Pound Poems - 6th and 13th April, 12-4pm and 11-4pm, Union and Taste
It's an On The Rocks classic! Come along to The Union or Taste, and pay a simple pound for a personalised poem produced by Inklight! This celebrated event is much anticipated each festival so come down to get your customised poem.
3. The Twelfth Night - 10th April, 2pm, The St.Age
In a first for the festival, they are going international! A group of Italian high school students reached out to On The Rocks requesting to put on a production of the Shakespeare play. This production is followed by a discussion and talk with academics from the School of English and the School of Modern Languages.
4. The Bell Pettigrew Museum and Sessions - 10th and 11th April, various times, The Bell Pettigrew Museum
My favourite secret study spot is going mainstream with two festival events which are sure to be tremendous fun. First of all is a performance tour of the museum with a potential visit by Dr Bell Pettigrew himself. Then the following night will be a musical soiree taking place in St Andrews' best-kept secret with the background of stuffed animals.
5. The God of Carnage - 11th and 12th April, 7.30pm, Barron Theatre
Emma Gylling Mortensen, fresh from success with Rabbit Hole last semester, is back with another fantastic contemporary play. Sure to be a wonderful production, this play sees two couples meeting to discuss a fight which their children have been involved in.
Samantha Harper reviews the Just So Society's musical production of Little Women, who are putting on their final show tonight.
Having grown up a stone’s throw from Concord, MA, Little Women has always been a story close to my heart, so naturally when I heard it was being performed in St Andrews I was thrilled. The story came to life from the first moment and the passion of the small cast was evident. The Stage, a notoriously small space to work with, was constructed in three levels to give more room for the actors to work with. The use of the space around the stage was well done and movement never felt awkward. In period clothes, a set can often be a stumbling block as long skirts and stairs don’t always go well, but the characters seemed at ease with the set and all their blocking. The show was fun and serious and a tear-jerker- everything a good musical should be. The bottom line: Go see it.
However, there are a few things I wouldhave changed. It’s hard to put on a show in such a short amount of time, buton-stage chemistry is crucial to a good show. While the four March Sisters(Mackenzie Pinkin, Harriet Tyler, Emma Johnston, Aria Ornes) and their Mother(Mhairi Claire Lynch) had a nice companionship, the several love connectionsseemed awkward at best. The strong friendship between Jo (Pinkin) and Laurie(Alex Schellekens) didn’t come across as much as it could have, leaving somewould-be heartbreaking moments a little less poignant that they could havebeen.
The only other criticism I had would have been the band. The actors didn’t feel fully comfortable with the live music and it definitely made it harder for them, although that didn’t stop a few amazing performances.
While most of the actors did pretty wellwith a notoriously difficult score, a few stood out among the cast. ProfessorBhaer (Jamie Rees) carried a beautiful solo and had a lovely little characterarc. I love seeing supporting characters have their own arcs and details; itadded a nice touch of depth to the story. Lynch really embodied the characterof Marmee and brought the four sisters together. Her solos were heartfelt andbeautiful, and I could listen to her sing all day. Pinkin, however, stole theshow as Jo. Her voice was gorgeous and her performance bold and nuanced. Icould tell throughout how she embodied Jo as a character. Even during sceneswhere other characters were center stage, all eyes were on Jo. She was genuineand hilarious. I honestly feel hers was the best performance I have seen on aSt Andrews stage.
Overall, this production of Little Women was a delight to watch, with moments of amazing musical talent.
Rating: four stars.
Little Women's final show is tonight at 7.30pm at the Stage. Tickets are £7, reserve them by emailing email@example.com or buy at the door.
If you would like to join The Tribe's team of theatre writers, please get in touch with our Theatre Editor Sarah Crawford by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Christina Riley reviews Mermaids’ first Byre production of the year, The 39 Steps.
The Mermaids’ Byre productions are always highly anticipated within the St Andrews theatre scene, and Ed Polsue’s rendition of The 39 Steps far surpassed expectations. It wasn’t the storyline but the script interpretation and overall talent of its actors and crew that drove the show throughout.
Harrison Roberts and Louis Wilson took on a variety of roles as the show’s clowns, the audience erupting into laughter each time they took to the stage. The directorial decisions coupled with Roberts and Wilson’s proclivity for humour was a perfect match; the simplicity of their bowing sequence, acting as props themselves, and running back and forth from the wings with a lamppost accompanied by comedic musical scores proved to be some of the highlights of the performance. The audience was allowed to escape from reality in moments of pure and unadulterated fun. It seems clear that the nature of Roberts and Wilson’s roles would have them commanding the stage. With that said, however, Daniel Jonusas (Richard Hannay) and Alexandra Upton (Anabella and Pamela) also assumed their roles perfectly, providing their own fair share of anecdotal comedies. The onstage actors were a mesmerising blend of talent and were truly a joy to watch, particularly due to the use of hyperbolised physical comedy juxtaposed with the subtleties of Upton’s character.
With the laugh-a-minute performance, even the minor hiccups added humour as they were fitting with the clown comedy: a stage hand creeping out from the wings to recover the forgotten “dead body” of Professor Jordan, or Mr Memory’s inhalation and subsequent choking on his fake moustache, provided raw and vulnerable moments where actors and audience alike were laughing at the unpredictability and excitement of the live stage. Despite being unscripted, they merely added to the metatheatrical elements of the show, which was already present in the farcical humour of his clowns and props – such as a toy helicopter manned by his actors behind a white screen. The playfulness of the show was its best virtue; the show was created with an inability to hide behind elaborate details and was a true testament to the art and skill of its makers.
The quality of The 39 Steps was exceptional. A stunning performance from Polsue and his team showcased the pinnacle of St Andrews’ theatre. Polsue in his director’s note stated that he hoped the production would speak for itself, and what was witnessed spoke in volumes louder than much of what has come before. Costuming, staging, acting and direction worked in a seamless tranquillity to create an utterly spectacular performance.
Rating: Five stars
If you are interested in reviewing productions for The Tribe, please contact our Theatre Editor Sarah Crawford at email@example.com
Editor-in-Chief Elliot Douglas continues his run of reviewing things in this town which he has little authority to comment on with this aptly titled "review of the Revue".
It’s funny how the ways in which we spend our free time go in waves, even in a town as small as this one. In first and second year I was a regular and devoted fan of the St Andrews comedy scene: from Blind Mirth to the Comedy Society to the coolest kids on the block: the St Andrews Revue. But it’s been years since I’ve seen any of these troupes strut their funny stuff – maybe I’m losing my sense of humour in my old age.
So it was a delight to pop down to the Barron last week and see an entirely fresh cohort of the St Andrews Revue take to the stage to make us giggle and raise some money for their Fringe show. And giggle I did – along with the rest of the audience in the packed-to-bursting theatre. The Revue is St Andrews’ sketch theatre group, an art which, while not necessarily involving more skill than stand-up or improv, certainly involves more collaborative preparation. The group knew their stuff and the hour-long show went with only one or two noticeable hiccoughs, which were mostly played well for laughs.
The Revue are at their best with high-concept, highly original sketches. A monologue featuring Matthew Midgett from a post-rehab Scooby Doo was hilariously done and Joe Casci’s sketch about a Godfather-esque family fighting over a game of Monopoly was wonderful. Midgett, in a double act with the fantastic Eloise Lobenthal, penned my favourite sketch of the night, a take-down of a Vice YouTube video with a hipster couple asking each other a set of pretentious, perfectly-timed and astutely-observed questions.
The workmanlike Edd Smith brought some pithy satire with his one-man “Fashion News” report – a biting mockery of the hypocrisy of St Andrews fashion shows. He also stood out in another sketch as American sent in to aid a pair of struggling British computer helpline employees, played with appropriate dour glumness by Joey Baker and Emma Sibbald. Baker’s earnest face was a reliable and humorous presence throughout the show as a whole. Ned Fiennes, meanwhile, shone as a French detective in a subversive mockery of the film noir genre.
Where the performance fell down a little was in the “Love Iceland” segments, which brought the show’s whole narrative together. All the performers were clearly less comfortable playing themselves (or an exaggerated version of themselves) than they were in playing wacky characters. Some dialogue between the prospective couples dragged a little, timings were missed, and I could have done without the apparently-unavoidable comedy trope of a character, when left alone upon the stage, singing All By Myself out of key. Bridget Jones has a lot to answer for.
Nevertheless, the energy and professionalism of the cast largely kept the show running smoothly and, once the audience was sold on the “Love Iceland” concept – which is, in itself, pretty amusing – we were all on-side to see the couples through to the bitter end. Overall, it was an amusing and well-rehearsed night that does St Andrews’ fine tradition of comedy proud. Oh, and there was an inflatable penguin.