The Dante Sisters and the Dare Club

Tue 23rd – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Jade Symons

at 23:30 on 24th Aug 2011

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It is always a good sign when you suddenly realise, halfway through a performance, that an unconscious smile has crept onto your face. That’s exactly what happened to me whilst watching “The Dante Sisters and the Dare Club”, a charming offering from the youthful theatre company “room 37”.

The actors dealt admirably with a script that was, at times, a little confusing to follow. In fact, good, solid performances were given by all, although special mention must go to “Pearl” and “Sylvie” - the former for a fabulously bored and casual deportment when in her “Dare Club” uniform, and the latter for her highly amusing facial expressions and thoroughly condescending and caustic tone when talking to the other sisters.

There were several attempts at audience participation which, had they been performed with a little more gusto, would have enhanced the show somewhat. Instead, it was the physical moments of the piece which really shone. Scene changes were effortlessly smooth, and were pulled off with great aplomb by the cast members.

There were also moments of choreographed genius, as the characters were transported to the far corners of the globes, with the help of a few carefully and cleverly selected props. These moments were the source of the aforementioned smile, and lifted the piece from something mediocre to something really quite good.

It was clear that the choreography had been well-rehearsed, but it is a shame that the dialogue wasn’t quite of the same standard. A little more vocal cohesion (and a little more comprehension - the upper class British accents occasionally descended into gibberish), may have pushed this performance up from three stars to four.

If the look and feel of a performance is important to you, I’d highly recommend this play. The lighting person is clearly talented, as all of the lighting changes were deftly handled, and the sound effects blended perfectly and unobtrusively with the action.

Overall, this was a good effort from room 37, which, with a little more polishing, could be great.

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Donnchadh O'Conaill

at 12:27 on 25th Aug 2011

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The title gives you the key ingredients, but tells you almost nothing you need to know. There are sisters – six of them, and one half-sister – and a dare club, but there’s a lot more to this charming and clever production. It doesn’t all work, but there’s enough sweetness to enjoy and enough bitterness to make one reflect on what one has seen.

The Dante sisters are summoned to a long-closed Parisian club, and each given a specific task to complete if they wish to see their father again. Their expeditions, and the reason they have been sent on them, make for a serviceable enough plot. Of more interest was the staging, which made every effort to eschew the kind of earnest realism which one might associate with school productions. Key to this was the use of props: clothes rails to represent a train carriage, a bicycle wheel as an aeroplane’s propeller, a red sheet draped over two of the cast as bodies in a crypt which come to fatal life. Other effects involved the cast acting in concert: my favourite of these was the swimming (and drowning) scene, where one actress was lifted and then submerged by four of the others. These devices added a lightness of touch and visual variation, lifting the production above either straightforward storytelling or long passages of dialogue.

The cast were well-suited for their parts, which is one of the benefits of working from a devised script. The actress playing the half-sister, Sylvie, had a commanding presence, an understated expressiveness, and a decent cut-glass accent (although she occasionally over-bit the words). Of the six sisters, my favourites were Davina, dry and prim, particularly in her tango scene; and Pearl, spoilt and pouting. The ensemble acting was good but perhaps a little tentative; at times one wished the cast could throw themselves more vigorously into creating the different situations.

One drawback with the writing was that it spread itself too thinly, across episodes involving six sisters, none of which received much more than a cursory sketch in the script. This lack of attention to key details transmitted itself to the production. Too many of the key moments – for instance, most of the death scenes, and the revelation of the very apt twist at the end – felt rushed, without the requisite build and release of tension. One felt that with more characterisation (and perhaps fewer characters) the script could have had more punch, and that some of the set-piece scenes could have benefitted from being developed in more detail. But for all that, the production ended clearly on the debit side. It oughtn’t take a dare to entice you to see it.

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