EFR - Reviews of Festive Season

Festive Season

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Patrick Sykes

at 11:19 on 23rd Aug 2011

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St Edward’s school have been reading a lot of Beckett and Pinter. Their production of Festive Season is an absurdist homage to the awkward Christmas party. It depicts a dysfunctional family and their unexpected, elusive guests, in the form of the creepy corporate intimidators named ‘Number 1’ and ‘Number 2’, held together (or apart…) by a mother who (of course) first emerges from a box, blind-eyed and white-faced. Endgame, anyone?

Yet although its inspirations were clear, Festive Season often struggled to do them justice. The games played with language - chains of association, puns, blurred sites of reference all featured - were used well to confuse both the mother (Alice Morgan) and the audience, and were sometimes carefully crafted, but their delivery from Number 1 and Number 2 (Kit Loyd and Hattie Lake) often felt a little too aware of its own (aspiring) wit.

Similarly, it was interesting to see a performance of the various games the play draws on, but these usually disappointed. A ‘ghastly’ round of what can only be described as Extreme Pictionary deliberately denies the audience a view of the offending drawing which so shocked its competitor, but it was difficult to imagine what might have had such a harrowing effect, and it remained rather unconvincing. Likewise, the charades set-piece was tightly-orchestrated, but became uninteresting when the television programme to be guessed - Father Ted - prompted a banal, familiar domestic between brothers George (Tom Mitchell) and Edmund (Hugh Coles) about an absent father that would have been more suited to soap opera than absurdist theatre.

Hugh Coles’s performance made him the golden boy of the family for me. His never quite consummated intention to leave the house for good brought out some delicate moments of indecision, and his raspy rendition of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ (which, in a nice touch, was featured later as background music) on the trumpet was a great comic moment, not to mention a challenge to pushy parents everywhere.

Though it is clear what Festive Season is aiming for, it unfortunately falls short. That said, the team behind it are clearly dedicated students of the absurd, and make what is always an admirable attempt to get to grips with the particulars of this tricky genre.

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David Knowles

at 11:45 on 23rd Aug 2011

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Frankly, I would have liked to see St Edward’s school put on Endgame and do it badly than perform what is essentially a scrappy Beckett tribute act. The similarities between the devised piece and Beckett’s famous play are almost too many to mention; the grandmother is essentially Hamm with a dash of Nagg, the dialogue is quick and self consciously abstract and the play almost revels in its own obscurity.

With that off my chest I have to go on to praise the performers. Yet again in the fringe this is a show in which the talent of most of the actors far outstrips the poor script. The troupe generally reacted well to each other and I enjoyed watching them. Alice Morgan gave a solid performance as the wheelchair bound grandmother and I admired how her performance never became patronizing or clichéd. Numbers 1 and 2 (played by Kit Loyd and Hattie Lake) were a convincing double act being... something or other. Unfortunately Hugh Coles and Tom Mitchell playing the quarrelsome brothers far too often slipped into ‘shouty’ acting, ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’.

I must say however that out of all the school performances I have seen at the fringe this is the most accomplished. The set is impressive, the tech slick and the music/sounds well chosen. My only real problems are with a few of the performers and the underwhelming script that totally misses its abstract mark. St Edwards School should be reasonably proud of their efforts. However, details do matter, at one point the actors refer to Islay whisky and pronounced the name of the island completely incorrectly. I realise that that point is totally pedantic but it shows how lovely moments of acting can be ruined by a lack of research. There may just be one person in the audience who knows and it is for them that you pay close attention to detail. All in all however, a sweet and short production.

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