EFR - Reviews of Celebration

Celebration

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Jade Symons

at 22:01 on 25th Aug 2011

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I feel it was a very brave decision of young production company MCS Drama to bring Pinter’s last, less well-known play to the Fringe. However, it was a decision which seemed -at least occasionally - to pay off.

“Celebration” was, at times, a play positively seething with undercurrents of innuendo and humour. These moments were often provided by the female members of the cast. Both Frankie McCormick and Sofia Rendall brought a delightful naughtiness to the performance, with wickedly suggestive lines and body language.

Overall, the actors worked well together, but the whole performance regrettably had a slightly disjointed feel to it. The pauses between many of the lines were frequently a fraction of a second too long, giving the air of a sixth form performance that hasn’t quite been rehearsed enough times.

That said, the energy of the actors was, at times, phenomenal, and when two or three cast members conjured up the same vivacity at the same time, the dialogue positively sparked, showcasing all the comedic delights of the script - which had clearly been well understood and developed by the company.

The appearances of the waiters and waitress provided the high points of the piece, as having a new character onstage to interact with seemed to perk up the performers somewhat, injecting more energy into the piece. Indeed, the two male waiters practically stole the show, with their respective charismatic performances.

Yet, these moments too occasionally lacked sufficient cohesion between the characters, bringing the words “under rehearsed” into mind again. There were also some questionable scene changes - loud, taped sound effects and not-quite-dark-enough blackouts smacked of a student performance in the school hall. The ending perhaps would have been more effective, had the loud music and lights been switched off at the same time.

However, with more consistent levels of enthusiasm, and a little more rehearsal of the timing of the lines, this piece could perhaps reach for a four star rating.

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Julia Chapman

at 11:46 on 26th Aug 2011

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Exploring the false niceties of social situations and grappling for connection in a world of disconnect, Harold Pinter’s Celebration is an unusual choice of play for the Fringe, and MCS Drama deserves plaudits for the very attempt of it. Their grasp of Pinteresque pauses was perfect and they adeptly captured the humour in the play at times, however the production lacked vitality and polish.

Celebration focuses on the walls people put up around them to distance themselves from the world, their spouses in particular. The play involves husbands and wives flaunting their infidelities and waiters oversharing with customers just to have someone hear them speak. The artificial smiles and claims that it was “lovely to meet you” are strewn throughout the play, with only a vague suggestion at the end of how to escape the charade of modern life. In a play that drones about mundanity it is crucial for the production to successfully provide a spark, and this sluggish performance did not succeed in making emotion palpable.

Although there were a couple of weaker actors, others stood out in contrast. Frankie McCormick was a flawless Julie, playing the unsatisfied wife of Lambert in a strikingly natural way. Lara Ashmore likewise suspended disbelief as the sultry Suki who spent most of her youth behind filing cabinets.

The set consisted of two dining tables side by side, each lit up consecutively for the focus to adjust, and nothing more was needed by way of the backdrop. The sound cues of restaurant chatter between scenes carried on for too long, however the swelling of the same sound effect at the very end of the performance was excellent as the lights slowly singled out the waiter, overwhelming the actor as the character was overwhelmed with life around him.

Bottles of wine were scattered across the two tables and when the wine was poured, the white looked like water and the red like fruit juice. This anachronism would not be detractive if the setting wasn’t meant to be one of London’s most expensive restaurants. Throughout the play I was under the impression that claims that the couples were dining in one of the best restaurants in the world was an ironic statement, only to later discover that it was an entirely serious comment. This setting change altered the meaning and could so easily have been avoided by more precise wine colour.

All in all, the admirable attempt was undermined by a lethargic monotony, and MCS Drama’s Celebration gave its audience nothing in particular to celebrate about.

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