EFR - Reviews of 2 Be?

2 Be?

Mon 8th – Sat 13th August 2011

reviews

Rachel Lovibond

at 08:34 on 9th Aug 2011

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‘2 Be?’ was put on as part of the American High School Theatre Festival and that effectively summarised the performance: an American School Play. It was the sort of production that the cast’s parents would record to look back on in 15/20 years for embarrassing footage to be played at 21sts, weddings or similar.

The plot described itself as a discussion of ‘the ridiculous hardships of being alive in our current world of technology’. The story consisted of the character ‘The Traveller’ (Bailey Winston) travelling through different ‘lands’ of emotion and harassed by irritatingly shrill, squawking girls representing the extremes of ‘The Traveller’s’ emotions. The implication was that these emotions are inaccessible to teenagers today due to modern technology; ipods in particular seemed to be serious causes of offence. There was also a preoccupation with making choices along the ‘path’ of life and finding oneself and loving oneself in order to be loved – just quite vile.

It doesn’t really feel appropriate to be rating this performance on the same scale as other events at the fringe this year. The pervading image on stage was a swarm of over-acting American children, with the main actress shouting every one of her lines and coming across as the epitome of a self-absorbed teenage drama queen. Some of the lines in the script were simply inexcusable: ‘we’re connected beyond emotion’ was only marginally less offensive than the recognition that the characters didn’t have as bad a deal as ‘the AIDS babies’, a recognition achieved by triumphing over ‘the river of despair’ in the ‘land of unhappiness’.

There was also an obsession with figures under scarves. The ‘river of despair’ itself constituted several figures under a long blue sheet and there were creatures of ‘fear’ and ‘anger’ under black and red scarves respectively. The black-scarves wandered around the audience hissing menacingly, and I was vaguely optimistic that one of them might eat one of the little girls acting as ‘truth-sayers’, but sadly nothing quite so exciting occurred.

Having watched other excellent plays acted by teenagers of similar ages, the low standard of the performance cannot be accounted entirely to the age of the cast. ‘2 Be?’ was one of the lowest points of the festival so far.

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Bethany Knibb

at 09:40 on 9th Aug 2011

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“2 Be” highlights the emotional minefield of growing up, where the protagonist – Bailey Winston – embarks on a journey to ‘find herself’ and along the way learns lessons of love, grief, joy and the importance of taking risks.

An impressive cast of nearly 30 fills the stage on a number of occasions, usually preceded or followed by the actors wandering through the audience and energetically waving around you (classic American High School Theatre Festival behaviour).

I was expecting a play that deals with the idea of desensitised, technologically over-exposed children in the world today, however while the concept may have begun with this in mind, only a few messily placed references to “ipods” remain in the script and seem glaringly irrelevant. The finished piece is now simply a journey of self-discovery that encourages you to think introspectively and embrace ‘who you ARE’ and let you know that you’re not alone in your plight. Blake Williams, the writer and director, presumably arrived at the play’s title because he wanted to connect with today’s youth who are struggling to decide what “2 Be” when they grow up. Unfortunately, no real teenage issues are dealt with specifically and the audience is left with learning what each pure emotion is, in turn.

Winston did a fine job holding the production together, though perhaps would make more of an impact if she drew the audience into her journey by swapping some of her volume for sensitivity. The disarming intensity of the whole production would certainly be improved by a generally quieter (more British?) approach to acting – the stage is big and therefore tempts the cast to try and fill it with noise. The only relief from the heaviness of “2 Be” is provided in the form of Megan Halkett as “Impulse”, a character the audience enjoyed immensely and a comic touch I, too, appreciated – alongside the four “Innocents” being “stolen” as part of Winston’s rite of passage.

The only scene I was actively disappointed in was the “Love” scene. Despite Adrian Brizuela and Paola Calatayud-Serna’s obvious singing ability, their scene is confusing, irrelevant to the ‘journey’ of the protagonist, and far too long. Sadly this seems to be due to a fundamentally weak script and it is my opinion that this what brings the quality of the production down. The acting is energetic and lively and what San Marino High School Drama tries to achieve is impressive, but it feels like their eyes were too big for their stomachs on this one.

If you’re a fan of heavy dramatics, pop along to join in “finding yourself” but don’t expect your life to change dramatically. Otherwise, get a nose piercing, grow your hair and call it a day.

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