Another night at the Theatre. Or at least, another night within the imaginative recesses of the UEA Drama Studio. Following Thursday’s impressive opening of the annual Shorts Festival, there is much anticipation in the air on entering the studio for the second round of this showcase for creative talent.
Tonight, we are hurled deep into the throws of 1920s New York, with ‘Joe’ as our first point of departure. Here’s a cop with a serious taste for liquor, called to the scene of a violent crime, which later develops into a hunt for a dangerous serial killer. There’s a catch here though – all the murder victims are somewhat acquainted with our fine anti-hero, leading to a bitter turn of events which leaves this less than diligent cop in quite a tricky situation.
In many respects Alistair Bourne’s Mack The Knife is a witty and well-constructed parody of the classic Film Noir genre, tying together various components of black comedy, the crime thriller and psychological realism. Gus Glassborow provides a diverse performance as the play’s protagonist, with fellow cast members acting variously as extensions of his self. One criticism would be that this at times wasn’t entirely clear, with the cast members on the periphery of the action sometimes seeming a little redundant, and their purpose becoming rather obscure. Despite this, the overall performance was engaging and highly imaginative, with the cast creating a moody atmosphere which mimics the inner spaces of Joe’s unfocused mind.
Leading on from this, we transition into a small and crowded living room, the place where Linus Wyeth’s Spiders is to unfold. We are at first introduced to Barry, a man on a mission to search out and destroy the spiders which he himself has released within the house – much to the annoyance of his wife, Gwyneth. It is a bizarre beginning to a tale which develops to quite a harrowing end. The story itself is plotted in such a way that the second half of the performance feels almost like we’ve been confronted with a slap in the face. Despite feeling that the first 10 minutes became a little repetitive with the mundane focus of Barry’s activities, the development of the performance freed it from its initial tedium – allowing for Charli Corrigan (playing the part of Gwen) to hit the ground running with the latter half of her performance.
Following the interval, the room throbs as the sounds of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” blares out from the speakers. As the curtains are drawn back, we see a woman sat, exasperated at the kitchen table, with a bottle of vodka positioned closely beside her as an aid. Shortly following this introduction, her husband enters the scene, quickly to be confronted by news of an ‘accidental’ murder which had taken place within the confines of their safe haven. As more characters enter the scene, mayhem ensues and events take a particularly dark turn.
No doubt Storm Jackson-Payne’s Grace is an incredible piece of theatre, providing no ends of laughs which are amplified by the stunning performance by Sian Maxwell (who plays the eponymous Grace). Maxwell traps the audience in a spell of transformative mayhem which forces their complicity and unconscious acquiescence with a state of reasoning which, despite practical, leaves the audience acutely aware of the psychosis that lies dormant within.
Last of all, we are confronted with a frank and compelling performance by Tom Mason, who leads a one man show in James McDermott’s All You Need is Love. The minimalist approach chosen by McDermott allows for a greater depth of performance which is achieved through a series of monologues presented by Mason as Timmy, a homosexual male who had been abandoned by his lover in the face of the law. This performance is deeply arresting, leaving the audience bound up in an intimate tale which provokes and punches.
Leaving the Drama Studio on a Friday evening left me in no doubt that UEA’s Drama programme is inhabited by a number of prodigious talents, whose work has the potential to grow into something quite brilliant in the future.