Drayton Arms Theatre
Reviewed – 9th April 2019
“These are insightful accounts into current struggles in our society”
Described as ‘…a show that explores the ebb and flow at the very core of being human’, ‘Stream: Two New Plays’ is a promising example of a double bill, complementing through genre and mood rather than tenuously linked by its topic. The fresh writing and innovative theatrical ideas make for two interesting works from a new group of creatives and actors in collaboration with Eve and Sea Productions and Stumble Theatre Company.
In ‘Salmon’, written and directed by Constance Eldon McCaig and Eva Lily, we watch Angus spiral to breaking point after the death of his dog, opening our eyes to the lack of purpose felt by so many young people, their inability to admit or express this sense of futility and the abuse of drugs to escape the emptiness. Devoid of prospects in a small town in Scotland, Angus fixates on the salmon’s innate objective in life. The script is well-crafted, combining poetic fragments and shared lines with the main narrative. Josh Smith, as Angus, gives a committed and moving performance as he moves from reality to delirium. Sometimes lacking confidence in the physical theatre of the play’s more surreal scenes and a slickness in the interlinking dialogue, the rest of the cast play his parents, girlfriend and social support who attempt to understand and offer help. The sound and lighting coordinate effectively to create the changes in Angus’s state of mind, and the poetry and relevant music enhance the atmosphere, but the constant soundscape detracts from the strength of the characters on stage, occasionally to the point of rendering them inaudible.
In contrast to the ‘son et lumière’ of the first play, ‘Mom Bob’ is a gentle reflection on the discovery of deep maternal feelings embedded in women, against the odds. Writer, Jane Hancock, plays Claire, recently reconnected with the daughter she gave up for adoption as a teenager. As she sits by a duck pond in Central Park, we learn the story behind her early pregnancy, her decision to give up her daughter and her liberation from domestic abuse. The writing is sensitive and we become engaged with Claire’s journey through life and struggle to come to terms with strong attachments for a child she didn’t raise. Alex Woolley’s direction makes good use of movement to break up the monologue but could vary the pace to internalise Claire’s train of thought and build up a deeper picture. The performance comes across as a linear interpretation of a text rather than from a character with the complexity and underlying fragility of someone marked by their ordeal.
These are insightful accounts into current struggles in our society and on a personal level and the messages are artfully and originally conveyed. Each could take a leaf out of the other’s book – the simplicity of the set in ‘Mom Bob’ and the visceral risk-taking of ‘Salmon’ – to intensify the drama through the acting, yet it is encouraging to see such carefully structured and thoughtfully produced theatre by talented newcomers.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Drayton Arms Theatre until 13th April
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: