To Have and to Hold

Sat 6th – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Harriet Baker

at 09:48 on 13th Aug 2011

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This production from Cambridge is a must-see; it is sparky and bright, deftly combining comedy with moments of sympathy. Lucy is trapped in a nightmare situation; the wedding reception of her best friend, in which she feels alone amid the smug couple, ex-boyfriend and elderly relatives. Her encounters with the guests are hilarious; her ex-boyfriend Sam drunkenly talks about their sex life, whilst Uncle William teaches racist slurs to a young girl. It is raucous and yet hilarious, the portraits of individual characters standing alone, and yet working effortlessly to create a whole.

What is particularly effective are the freeze-moments of loud music, in which the actors dance in a bizarre fashion; in one instance this is a choreographed whole, the cast robot-like and exact, representing the tangle of relationships which compose them. Another music-moment and the audience see only the male members of the cast dancing, gyrating in drunken splendor in an almost entirely random fashion.

The direction is superb; the music is excellently chosen, and there are no embarrassing attempts at drunk-talk, as this is achieved through other means: dancing, strange characters emerging from beneath tables and adults incomprehensively reasoning with a child. This play is as odd as it is brilliant; the tag-line, ‘Things are about to get awkward’, has been seized upon by Batey and made his own. What must be appreciated primarily is the expert dialogue of the play, it is swift and slick, whilst the plot moves of its own and Lucy’s dilemma is revealed moments before the close. She cannot decide whether to silence the reception by chinking her glass or firing a gunshot, and the audience is left craning to see which she will do.

Individual performances deserve mention; Celine Lowenthal is a brilliant Lucy, lingering between self-assurance and vulnerability. Embarrassing ex-boyfriend Sam, played by Harry Michel, is the lynch-pin of the hilarity, whilst Ben Kavanagh deploys a charming but deceptive Tristan. Joey Batey’s performance of Uncle William is faultless, and Jacob Shephard is very good at dad-dancing.

This is a brilliant play under excellent direction; it is odd, witty and full of fun. Batey’s writing promises great things, whilst as a student production this must be ranked as one of the best.

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sophie ainscough

at 10:18 on 13th Aug 2011

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Written by Cambridge student Joey Batey and shortlisted for this year’s Cambridge Footlights Harry Porter Prize, To Have and To Hold centres on the experience of unfortunate Lucy, Celine Lowenthal, at her best friend’s wedding. Armed with the permanent presence of alcohol her night is spent in a catalogue of not always welcome collisions with other guests.

The pretence begins as soon as the audience enters the venue, greeted as we are by the bride and groom with smiles, handshakes and words of welcome, along with slightly more unsavoury, comical offerings from other guests. Thus the audience is instantly made to feel like part of the party, beholding wedding tables of champagne, glasses and smartly dressed guests, and included as we are in the opening best man’s speech, and closing, more unravelled speeches of the bride and best man. As the lights drop we are still waiting for the words of Lucy, just as we begin with her interior monologue, her thoughts internalised.

Indeed, much is hidden in this play, secrets, a gun and even a dead body are woven beneath the comic misadventures, emerging at the most mistimed moments, themselves even part of a game of Cluedo to the players involved. The best man Sam, Harry Michel, is a highlight, “an inflatable Ron Weasley” providing moments of comic genius in his slow decline and disintegration from stereotypical best man awkwardness into drunken, disorderly despair, memorably embracing a pole and later uncle William, played in this production by Joey Batey. The outbursts of typically cringe worthy wedding dancing are mostly well timed and sequenced within the action of the play. Ami Jones also shone in her performance of Clara, delivering convincingly childish outbursts and colouring in the bride’s dress with crayons in an example of impressively original script writing. The jokes are occasionally a little too cheesy for my liking, but given the wedding context To Have and to Hold gets away with it.

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