EFR - Reviews of Satellites

Satellites

Fri 5th – Sat 20th August 2011

reviews

Madeleine Stottor

at 15:12 on 17th Aug 2011

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‘Satellites’ is an Awful Pie Theatre adaptation of the D. H. Lawrence classic ‘Women in Love’, and follows sisters Gudrun and Ursula as they fall ‘out of Nottinghamshire’ and into love with Gerald Crich and Rupert Birkin. The production is restricted by its source material, script, and staging, and although there is much to commend it, it is unfortunately a bland, uninspired production.

The show remains quite faithful to the original text, making its actors double as narrators, quoting large chunks of Lawrence to facilitate the condensation of the novel required. This technique works well, and gives ‘Satellites’ a coherency despite its omissions, as well as psychological insights. Awful Pie Theatre’s version certainly has many such omissions; staunch Lawrence aficionados may not be impressed, and cramming such a weighty novel into around an hour and a quarter is obviously difficult. The use of the title ‘Satellites’, rather than ‘Women in Love’, perhaps shows an awareness of this productions relatively loose bonds with their source material, since much is inevitably lost in the transition from page to stage.

This loss is most keenly felt in the show’s characterisation. Birkin’s relationships with both Hermione and Ursula lack any depth, and Gudrun appears perhaps less than she ought, and so is difficult to connect with. However, another problem is, unfortunately, the cast itself. Fringe practicalities force Fiona Guest to take six parts, and Robert Snellgrove four. Some of these roles are, perhaps, redundant; Snellgrove’s roles in particular are really very brief, and his German accent for Loerke, one of his biggest parts, shaky at best. Ursula and Birkin’s relationship is not brilliantly portrayed, by Ella Thackray and Frankie Parham give the two best performances of the show. Parham especially manages to maintain a firm grip on the lofty Lawrentian language. Gudrun and Gerald’s partnership is far worse. Where Ursula and Birkin seem as least to like each other, Gudrun and Gerald, played by Lauren Hyett and Tim Kiely, have no connection. It feels sometimes as though the actors, Kiely in particular, are reciting their lines with almost no interest in what they are saying. Their delivery is consistently impersonal and unemotional, and by ‘Satellites’’ close this mood spreads through the cast; it seems as though the cast are bored of their roles. In such a situation, the audience feels the same. Costumier Bess Roche does well here, and choreographer Rachel Dedman is presumably responsible for the balletic sex scenes, which fail only because of a lack of spark between any of the actors.

‘Satellites’ ultimately offers some good acting performances and looks elegant and professional, but fails to engage its audience in any way. For me, the best thing about it is the way it looks, including the flyers and programme.

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Harriet Baker

at 18:22 on 17th Aug 2011

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The first scene was promising, but it quickly became apparent that ‘Satellites’ is a lackluster production. The adaptation of DH Lawrence’s novel, ‘Women in Love’ is badly done, whilst the cast seemed bored and as if they had given up half way through.

Considering that the relationship between Gudrun and Ursula is central to the book, and also the fact that they are sisters and discuss in depth their affections and disappointments, the first scene of them together is the last. From this point onwards, they are as divided as strangers. In fact, my main criticism of this play is that the entire cast seem strangers to each other. There is absolutely no chemistry between anybody. Ella Thackray’s performance as Ursula is easily the best of the piece, and she certainly gives out a sincere performance. Yet Frankie Parham as Rupert Birkin seems to act of his own, and their romance feels as unlikely as it seems. Parham gives an impeccable performance, is eloquent and expressive, yet he manages to turn every conversation into an argument. After a while I feel the discord of the cast jarring, as they argue over love and marriage. However, it is the relationship of Gerald Crich (played by Tom Kiely) and Gudrun (played by Lauren Hyett) that is simply uncomfortable to watch. There is no sexual energy at all, which for an adaptation of Lawrence is fatal. Sex scenes are choreographed into a series of movements reflected in both couples. It could work, it could be good, but with Kiely and Hyett it is absolutely bizarre and absolutely awful. The lack of chemistry is glaringly obvious, and whilst Kiely pants and runs his hands over his partner’s body, she hardly responds. She does not breathe and she looks as if she would rather be somewhere else. I was acutely aware of her discomfort and it made the scene almost impossible to watch. The relationship between Gerald and Gudrun is one of the most central sexual elements of the narrative, whilst on stage it dissolves into nothing.

To condense ‘Women in Love’ into an hour’s performance is a difficult task, and its failure to do it well mars the production from the first. If it seems as if I am comparing the production too closely with the novel, it is because the play is billed as an adaptation, and throughout the performance a member of the cast steps forward and narrates. The level of adaptation has been done in a manner as crude as dialogue, and then a cast member explaining, “Then they went to the Alps”. It is incredibly boring. Other scenes did not work, such as the lake scene in which Gerald’s sister drowns. Lanterns create a pretty glow, and yet Kiely totally fails to convey fear or urgency. He simply gasps to show him diving underwater, and yet in the aftermath of the event stands blank-faced and emotionless. This is not depth of characterization and subtlety but simply terrible acting.

I had great hopes for this production, and it began well. However it took less than five minutes for me to realize disappointment, and the performance carried on in the same lackluster vein. I would like to point out that during this particular performance, a phone went off and two members of the audience left in the most noisy and rude manner. It seems that after this point, the cast gave up and the spark was lost. The individual performances of Ella Thackray, Frankie Parham and Fiona Guest deserve mention, but cannot excuse the painful scenes between lovers. This was not only a terribly boring adaptation, but also a performance that lacked energy and chemistry.

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