Qudos, Thursday 21st Nov
Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the last out of three STAG Nights- a yearly festival of short plays written and performed by UoG students, organized by Student Theatre at Glasgow (STAG). The programme for Thursday included: Steven by Norliza Matheson (dir. Alex Hayward and Rebecca Russel), Edward J. Faitres by Rory Doherty (dir. Rory Doherty and Jenny Barron), and Madagascan Chaffinch by Harry Penrhyn Jones (dir. Aimee Buchanan). Interval acts included The Fraser Sisters and The Flapper in a Flap: Ashley Thompson.
The moment I entered the venue, I must admit I was impressed. The venue designer Kirsty Fraser did an amazing job in creating the atmosphere accompanying this year’s theme: After Hours. Every table had a glass bottle serving as a dim lamp and some poker cards spread around: some simple and affordable yet very effective decoration – exactly what student theatre should be.
Steven was a typical student play. Steven (Jake Tanner) “is a truly unremarkable human being,” without any special talents, close friends or relationships: a self-image with which almost every student can identify at least once in their uni years. However, Steven starts hearing a little voice narrating everything he does on the day he is destined to die and enter purgatory. Full of funny jokes once Steven gets to purgatory, this play is good for passing time, especially with a pint in hand. Elliot Thompson, playing the Grim Reaper and the Judge is especially entertaining and the best part of the show! While the character of the Reaper could have been stylized better, Thompson’s portrayal of the Judge always goes enough over the top to be hilarious, yet never to the extent that it becomes cheap or offending.
Edward J. Faitres was unfortunately the weakest link. The idea behind the play was quite interesting: a young woman confronting the leader of a cult that brainwashed her parents while another cult member is trying to indoctrinate her. Unfortunately, the play did not live up to the expectations. The two main characters spent almost the whole twenty minutes just sitting and talking to each other – a type of staging that needs a much stronger text to hold the attention of the audience. Moreover, when directors decide to take this road, it is very important to ensure that everyone in the audience has a good view of both characters. I was sitting in the middle of the first row, looking at the back of Amber’s (Ellie Jane’s) head for the whole length of the performance. This could have been avoided easily if more attention was given to the arrangement of the chairs on stage.
As a film noir enthusiast, Madagascan Chaffinch was the play for which I was most excited. The play itself was good, yet some jokes were over-done to be funny (My real name is…). I think that making a comedy out of old movie conventions is a brilliant idea, but the power of comedy lies in dosage. Matthew Wilson and Sophie Whelan were the only ones who found exactly the right dosage, while most of the actors went a tad overboard probably in agreement with their writers/directors. Nevertheless, I would love to watch this play over and over again simply for Sophie Whelan’s portrayal of Al Tripoli. Out of all performances that night, Sophie Whelan is the absolute winner. Her comedic timing is one of the best I have ever seen. Moreover, she stays completely in character throughout the whole performance, regardless of whether she is delivering lines or just listening to other people. This constant active presence is unfortunately rarely seen even on professional stages, let alone in student theatre. I have no idea what her future plans are, but I honestly hope they involve professional performance.
The interval acts between the plays were hardly needed, as we first had fifteen minutes free before they even began. Since there are some very talented people at the UoG, I would suggest giving more attention to the interval acts. Making them somewhat longer and possibly a bit better rehearsed, while taking only five minutes to set up the stage would conceptually be much better.
Finally, student theatre festivals are not the type of event you go to expecting perfect work. They mostly consist of good-to-very-good efforts made by theatre enthusiasts, such as myself. Still, every now and then you manage to find individuals that take student theatre to another level. I was very surprised that on Thursday, I managed to find three such gems: Sophie Whalen, Kirsty Fraser and Elliot Thompson, I hope to see more of you all!
[ Žad Novak – @justatweetortwo]