Venue reviews: Colloquium at the UEA Drama Studio

Drama Society’s most recent play ran this weekend to great success. Written by MA Scriptwriting student Katie Stockton, the short play follows three students as they attend their ‘Oxbridge’ interviews, and the influence these interviews have both on the applicants as well as the professors interviewing them. It’s a simple premise, in fact almost everything about the play is simple, but this does little to take away from the ingenuity of the piece as a whole. A simple set greats us as we enter the theatre. This show is not about complex surroundings and props; it’s about ‘the human condition’, as it were. The simplicity reinforces the questions of character that Stockton explores with her stellar script.

The cast of six consisted of first, second- and third years of six, and they worked together apparently effortlessly; the dialogue bounced from actor to actor without pause, and the fast pace and realistic phrasing dragged the audience in all the more. There was a character for everyone, individual but at the same time open and generic enough that they could be anyone, even bordering on caricatural. While this could work to make the show a stereotypical mess, the humour added to the atmosphere of the work as a whole and ensured that all audience members felt at home. Between the over-pompousness of the professors, their utterly stupid interview questions (“Snog, Marry, Avoid: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit”), and the confusedly aggressive answers, the laughter never stopped.

Although the play was hilariously funny and timed to a T, the main focus was quite clearly the elitism found within UK academia and the statuses of different universities. By examining these ideas from multiple angles and viewpoints, this play explored the positive aspects of these institutions, but also challenged them: It humanised the people involved, and by humanising them it created a way to challenge them. The message was clear; if the people change, the system will change. The only complaint I could possibly have is a personal one – this was one of those dramas without a proper ending! I was so ready to see Oxbridge flipped on its head by these three precocious and stubborn students who overcame every adversity for the chance of even getting an interview, but my personal vendetta was regrettably not to be fulfilled.

Instead Stockton left us with the kind of open ending that only really good stories have; the kind of ending that leaves you questioning everything you ever thought you knew about society and people and humanity. (Well maybe it wasn’t quite that existential, but it was incredibly frustrating!) Otherwise, there is nothing else to do but congratulate the Drama Society, specifically Katie Stockton and her cast and crew, who put on a first class production that kept me simultaneously laughing and questioning the idea of free thought all at the same time. It was an absolute delight to witness.

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