Sunday night saw UEA Drama Society’s annual Spotlight show featuring six original plays from talented writers here at UEA. The night was compered by Ollie Partington and Lucas Burt who brought great energy and lots of laughs from the outset with their well worked routines.
The night began with Freddie Van der Velde penned The Ghost Writer. The play definitely had two distinct halves, the first demonstrating a diverse range of character with Lewis Garvey and Amber Muldoon satirising the role of the Hollywood agent with a caricature like fervour. Tom Eaton performed well as the timid struggling writer bringing his script, and himself, into the pearly white jaws and manicured claws of the movie executive world. The play took a turn towards the surreal with the appearance of Tom Mason and Ali Dunk playing characters from the script who had seemingly walked into real life. In a rather jarring turn, it was the kisses between Mason and Dunk that were played upon for the biggest laughs. In a play with a lot of quickly-paced and cleverly written dialogue it seemed a shame to rely on such a dated tactic. How would the kisses have been received if they’d happened between a man and woman, or woman and woman, or any variation you care to think of? At a guess, some sitcom inspired wooing, or even cat-calling – but it seemed that the joke was simply that two men were kissing. Part of the reason that the joke struck so jarringly was that throughout the rest of the play the comedy relied on great timing, high levels of physicality and an otherwise extremely strong cast.
Charlotte Spencer’s Second Midnight put the world of celebrity culture under the microscope. The play started well yet descended pretty rapidly into farce with the majority of the cast laughing uncontrollably on stage. Some of the moments, like the exploding beer cans, were genuinely funny – yet the dialogue was often muffled in attempts not too laugh so it was slightly difficult to understand. Overall an enjoyable play that lost most of its potency in the fits of laughter on stage.
Sam Day’s surreal Fargle! The Earthlings Are Coming was next on the running. The physicality of the cast was impressive, and the way that the narrative was split between the Martian Parliament and the ‘Welcom Earthling’ party back on Mars really worked well. Although at times the political weight of the dialogue was a little expositional it was small price to pay for a play with such clear moral messages.
Queue For Paradise was billed as ‘The Essex Hunger Games’ and found four characters created by Stephan Drury queuing with a sinister determination for the opening of the new “cheaper than Aldi” Paradise Shopping Centre. Lu Smith really brought out the vulnerable side of her elderly character in the opening monologue and the cast really worked well together as a whole, with laughs, jeers and groans coming from the audience in equal measure. The play did seem to end a little too quickly and with a bit of a rush, meaning that some of the potential to explore the characters’ situation was lost.
The penultimate show of the night was Ellie Whitaker’s A Quiet Night In and her portrayal of an LCR pre-drinking session. It was a recognisable scene to everyone watching – with funny dialogue and great performances the friendship between the four housemates was really believable. There are many plays where an actor’s inability to seem drunk draws you out from the action, this was not one of them. Alice Haskell, Briana Taylor, Sian Duggan, and Hannah Walmesley-Browne all did great jobs of seeming just the right level of drunk to be able to maximise on laughs without resorting to slap-stick or farce at any point. Ollie McFadden was fantastic as the stuck-up hipster boyfriend and really did justice to the hilarious dialogue.
Harry Denniston’s Phoney was a definite highlight of the night. It concerned two heavily South-London thieves, played with great energy and convincing accents by Ed Jones and Gus Glassborrow, and finds them hiding from police having just mugged a couple at knife point. The dialogue and direction were balanced well to give the audience such vivid rounded characters without seeming at all over the top. Things took a sinister turn as the phone they had stolen started receiving text messages that, with some ambiguity, told of something terrible happening to the person they had stolen from. The ambiguity of the texts worked well and the tension was really racked up throughout which gave the comic moments of the play an even greater punch. There were some great set-pieces which looked well-rehearsed and ran smoothly. Overall an intelligently written play with good direction and equally strong performances from its two characters.