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Review: NUTS Drama Festival 2018

August 20th, 2018 | by Alice Wilson
Review: NUTS Drama Festival 2018
Arts
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The NUTS drama festival is such a great display of student talent in all areas of theatre, and I was fortunate enough to see three plays which had all been written, directed, designed and performed by society members.

Wasp began the evening with an intense, Steinbeck-esque story of deep south dustbowl America coming through industrial growth, focusing in on a married couple- Kell and Florence- caught in the shadow of the husband’s involvement in serious crime in order to keep his household afloat. However, the concealment of the crimes quickly goes amiss with the arrival of Jeremiah- Kell’s mysterious and violent associate, whose presence exposes not only the truth behind local crimes, but also the insecurities and fractures within Kell and Florence’s marriage.

It’s very refreshing to see this genre of play coming from a young writer, particularly considering the intensity of some of the scenes within it, all of which were performed brilliantly by the cast, even though the audience consisted of friends and peers. Writer Luke Bateman has clearly done his homework in the southern American dialect and colloquialisms, which along with the attention to detail of the props and the movements of the characters within scenes, adds a very strong sense of authenticity to the play. Alongside this, the transitions between each scene, most particularly the dance between Kell and Florence added a beautiful new dimension to their relationship, proving once again that dialogue isn’t absolutely necessary in order to create depth in characters. The use of secondary characters such as the Bread-Seller and the Old Lady was innovative in exposing the difficulty and pain of Florence’s situation subtly, without having to spell it out the audience.  The title of the piece, Wasp is made relevant throughout, relating to the entrapment and isolation felt by Florence, which was also reflected in the staging of an inward-facing audience, adding to the claustrophobic nature of her position. Without giving too much away, the story is beautifully allegorically aligned with the collapse of many farm-workers’ lives during that period in the deep south. An excellent and innovative piece exploring the difficult areas of domestic violence and familial breakdown, with commendable attempts at southern accents throughout.

It’s very refreshing to see this genre of play coming from a young writer

Was It Good For You? was absolutely hilarious and very cleverly written. It’s great for a female writer to unashamedly expose the awkward encounters a one night stand can incur, and address the imbalance of sexual pleasure between the sexes. Having direct address to the audience was an effective tool for humour, however some of these jokes were lost by the actors talking a little too quickly. The distinction from the cast between whom they were talking to when was however, very clear and this meant that the majority of the gags were well-received. The shock and crudeness of some of the scenes were hilariously extravagant and perfect for a student audience, for whom this is probably very relatable. At times, there was a danger of the overuse of swear words- sometimes they were not totally necessary and their overuse renders them eventually less shocking, but the progression from one deeply embarrassing and extremely funny scenario to another was perfect; gradual, and not an onslaught. In addition, the involvement of flatmates and friends was a very intelligent use of secondary cast in order to add depth to the main characters. The ending was slightly rushed; and for something which had quite a long build up, it was very quickly over, but this is, I suppose, reflective of an actual one night stand with the speedy get away in the morning, which only added to the humour.

It’s great for a female writer to unashamedly expose the awkward encounters a one night stand can incur, and address the imbalance of sexual pleasure between the sexes.

Big Trouble In Little Monkey’s Day-Care was yet another shoulder-shaking play, leaving your eyes wet with the clever use of language from the writer and excellent delivery from the cast. It sees a typical American crime-gangster scenario, but in the setting of a day-care facility, with toddlers as the protagonists and melted choc-ices as the crime in question. An excellent conversion of an established genre to make a hilariously funny exposition of its tropes in a ‘Play That Goes Wrong’ sort of way. In a play where timing was of the essence, not a joke was missed by any of the actors, but most especially the male lead, whose subtlety meant the play progressed very smoothly. Although the distinction between characters was at times blurred, this can easily be rectified by closer attention to wardrobe, and the use of pre-recorded voices of adults made the identities of the live characters easy to see.  It’s not surprising that this play is going to the Edinburgh fringe, where I am certain it will be enjoyed by many, because of its innovation, artistry, and excellent delivery.

In a play where timing was of the essence, not a joke was missed by any of the actors

Each of these plays were directed and produced with such care and professionalism, demonstrating a care for their art and a support for each others’ work in whichever form it came. This festival is an excellent opportunity to show of the plethora of artistic and creative talent in our Theatre Society, and is something which should be celebrated, praised and nurtured because, as these three plays demonstrate, there is place in the industry for each of the talented students involved in their production.

 

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