If there is one word to describe UEA Drama Society’s performance of Reefer Madness, it has got to be “smokin”. And that extends far beyond its subject matter of marijuana.
Photo: Jerusha Green
From the moment the audience steps into the studio, the play is already in motion; on a metafictional level we are “parents of the 1930s” watching a morality tale on the dangers of marijuana use amongst youths. But it becomes clear from The Lecturer’s (Joshua Husselbee’s) opening speech and musical number, that the play will exude hilarity.
A spoof of a 1936 propaganda film, Reefer Madness traces the downfall of Jimmy Harper (Edward Jones) and Mary Lane (Kirsten Abo-Henrikson), two perky but naïve lovers who desire a “happily-ever-after” and who mimic the fate of Romeo and Juliet after taking the puff or consuming extra-delicious brownies.
It is easy to forget about the serious bits with all the melodrama on stage. Not short of dark humour, laughter fills the room at the many satirical instances, especially with the appearance of placards making supposedly educational claims, such as “marijuana makes you giggle for no reason” or “marijuana makes you sell your baby”. It is as though Reefer Madness aims to show how the audience should decide for themselves what draws the line between truth and sensation.
Playing the commendable dual role of Jack / Jesus is Sam Holland, who draws on both the archetype of a suave reefer-dealer and a celebrity host version of Jesus Christ. Likewise, Georgie Matthews plays a convincing Mae, a guilt-ridden woman unable to leave her abusive relationship because of her addiction.
If you’re a fan of rock musicals like Little Shop of Horrors, then you are likely to enjoy the songs in this production, with the cast’s memorable renditions including “Mary Jane/Mary Lane” and “Tell ‘Em the Truth”.
Photo: Jerusha Green
The play also boosts an extravagant set and costume design that makes it both surreal and visually entertaining. There are elaborate cardboard vehicles, ripped-up body parts, angels, goat horns, the Statue of Liberty and iconic US presidents making cameo appearances. Hilariously, during a trippy sequence the dancers dress in “fallen-Adam-and-Eve” style costumes, appearing nude, but with carefully placed marijuana leaves.
Apart from the occasional feedback from the speakers, DramaSoc’s six-week preparation paid off with this brilliant production, displaying the amount of effort put into creating a Broadway experience at our very own university.
Coming soon: DramaSoc’s next show will be A Night of New Short Plays written, directed and performed by members of UEA DramaSoc. Monday 4 March, LCR, 7.30pm. Tickets £.3.50.