New Diorama Theatre
Reviewed – 18th February 2018
“this mixed-media performance does an adequate job at questioning our freedom of speech within the technological age”
In a world where sex and violence sells, where humiliation and ridicule have become the norm within the content we watch, you forget that there was once a time when strict laws against such matters were in place across the arts and media in this country. Odd Eyes Theatre’s new production, Close Up, examines the past and present to see whether pushing boundaries to the extreme has ultimately given us the freedom to profess ourselves as individuals. Written and directed by founding company member, Emilia Teglia, Close Up throws up an intriguing and timely conversation on what it means to be in the media within the 21st century and whether some of the restraints on the entertainment industry, 50 years ago, could be of benefit today.
Young and vivacious documentary maker Lauren (Sophie Delora Jones) is desperate to get her work signed with one of the big television networks. She hopes with her new project that she will finally be able to achieve this. Enter the elderly yet ever-so-glamorous ex-showgirl Grace (Gilly Daniels) who becomes the face and subject of Lauren’s film. Relaying stories of her youth, Grace reveals the adventurous life she had, including, touring the world whilst singing for the troops during WWII and her escapades on stage and television during the censorship years of the 50s and 60s. As Grace happily drifts through her memories, it is the metaphysical presence of her dear friend Kenneth Williams (played brilliantly by Andrew Goddard) that guides Grace through her newfound fame. However, the etiquette of television has somewhat changed from what Grace knew. Are Lauren and the immoral producer Jason (also portrayed by Goddard) exploiting Grace, all in the name of ‘entertainment’?
Considering Close Up is still in a work in progress stage, the performances given by each actor were extremely good. Hats off to Andrew Goddard for giving a tremendous go at portraying Kenneth Williams. It’s praiseworthy for the fact that Goddard does not try to completely mimic the comic actor, rather that he possesses the essence of Williams instead. To a younger audience that may have no or little idea of Kenneth Williams, some dialogue or in-jokes may go over their heads, however, having the millennial Lauren likewise unaware of who Kenneth Williams is, eliminates any risk of alienating part of the audience.
With the combined use of theatre, and live and prerecorded film, this mixed-media performance does an adequate job at questioning our freedom of speech within the technological age. Being a work in progress, there are areas within the plot that still need refining and reworking, however, the production is most definitely moving forward in the right direction. It will be compelling to see how it develops in the future.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
New Diorama Theatre