Friday, 12 October 2007

Woking Drama Festival - Day 8

Continuing my reviews of this year’s WDA Festival of One-Act Plays.

Runnymede Drama Group presented The Art Of Remembering by Adina L. Ruskin

Fabulous! This poetic play is made up of fragments of stories and memories based on the lives of the author and her family, across Europe and the Americas, taking in events as diverse as the Jewish diaspora and holocaust and the Spanish Civil War.

A simple set - 3 blue banners imprinted with mnemonic symbols, 3 trunks - were complemented by a simple-looking, but ever-changing lighting plot. Add the blue costumes for the 3 characters and the result was a visual treat.

All 3 actresses were confident, assured, in total control of the pacing of the play and totally convincing in the many roles they portrayed. Nancy Usher, as Reba, stood out for me though. Her 'business' in the background was amusing, convincing, but never distracting and her portrayal of Anna, the 120-year old immigrant woman was sublime.

The direction was fluid and imaginative whilst being totally unobtrusive. Every scene flowed into the next without a pause at a perfect pace.

The whole play was underscored by an extremely effective and very tightly edited music track. I did find it slightly distracting at a few points though and I think it could have done with being 20% quieter on occasion.

For me, so far, this was the best production of the Festival. Only 3 more groups to go tonight and they'll have to pull out all the stops to better this one.

Shinfield Players' Theatre Youth Group presented Cupid by Gordon Bird

Hmmm... This was a strange one. The "play", such as it was, would have been more at home in an end-of-year school revue. Woefully short and with a couple of nice ideas which should have been expanded upon and developed more fully.

The story was a nice idea for playing to adolescents. A look at how young love should work.

The 3 young actors did their best with the material, but they appeared to be quite under-rehearsed and in need of more forceful direction. Emily Bevan as the Narrator stood out as being very confident and able to ride over the rough patches with ease.

This is a difficult review to write; I can't really say whether the production was any good, or not! There was a lot wrong with the script and the acting was rough-and-ready, yet I, and the rest of the audience certainly enjoyed the short performance thanks to the energy and obvious enjoyment which was portrayed by the cast.

Farnham Shakespeare Company presented The Taming Of The Shrew (excerpts) by William Shakespeare

Presented on a bright green sward of grass with black wooden garden furniture, this was a good attempt to give us a potted version of the story of Kate and Petruchio in 5 key scenes. This structure meant that some of the scenes suffered a bit from a lack of cohesion and some time compression which was off-putting.

Overall, the acting was very good. Standing out for me were Douglas Brown as Baptista, Nigel Dams as Hortensio and especially Tony Bowman as Grumio. The latter's physical clowning and asides were excellent.

I found Petruchio's dialogue to be a little too fast to follow his meaning. While the speed showed a formidable grasp of the words, in my opinion it just came off as a little too 'pat' - especially in the fight scene with Kate when they are throwing insults to and fro with nary a pause for breath. For me, as someone unfamiliar with the play, I was unable to keep up with the various puns, barbs and jokes, so I just stopped trying to listen and let them wash over me. A slower pacing, without sacrificing any of the 'bite' of the scene, would have been far more effective.

I'm afraid that I also found the direction to be a little staid in places. When there were a lot of characters present, they tended to be lined-up straight across the stage. That the director knows his stuff was apparent when we got into the more intimate scenes - then the actors were placed in much more interesting situations using the full range of the positions available to them on the set.

Overall, I did enjoy this production. I'd be willing to go along to see the full version (playing in Farnham later this month) if I knew that the complex speeches were going to be spoken at a rate more suited to the modern ear.

Come back on Saturday for reviews of the last 3 plays.

I must stress that I am not a professionally qualified reviewer or adjudicator. My opinions are wholly subjective.

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