UCAS

Mon 4th – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Amber Roberts

at 10:23 on 9th Aug 2014

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UCAS documents in musical form the struggle of five impoverished young teenagers in their last year of school, wondering what the future holds for them. If you’re a Glee or High School Musical enthusiast, this play is for you. It features many similarly cheesy songs to ‘Don’t stop believing’, but it must be said that these songs were worse. Simply put, UCAS is a less catchy High School Musical without the eye candy.

For those who think that sounds cruel, there are a few differences and redeeming features. The plot, as is obvious from the title, is based around the transition between school and university and the teenage angst that often comes with this. This includes the prominent issue of expensive tuition fees shown by the lyrics ‘50k in debt or 50k of enjoyment’, which is likely to resonate with some audience members. Like High School Musical, UCAS does stereotype pupils: as the joker, the brainbox, the shy one with potential, the ‘star-crossed’ lover and those who don’t care for education.

One impressive feature of the play is the choreography; UCAS is packed with sharp and innovative movement on a relatively restrictive stage. The pupils dance with boundless energy, creating all sorts of circle, square and line formations. This works well with the cheesy music, but is unfortunately let down at times by some off-key vocals.

The music had a distinctly fairy tale or Disney feel, with Miss Miller (the teacher) acting and almost sounding as if she were Cinderella at times. However, Miss Miller’s sickly sweet and credential-obsessed character inspires much less sympathy than one has for Cinderella. There is something unnerving about a teacher singing ‘essay of your liiiiiiiiiiife’ with a high-pitched flare. The children’s parts, although predictably stubborn and disinterested, evoke more sympathy and humour at times. Aiden (Ryan Ferrie’s part), has the audience giggling when he reads out his stolen personal statement which is full of exaggerations such as his deep passion for both the viola and the cello, mispronounced ‘kello’.

UCAS is the epitome of a cheesy teenage musical; however one doubts whether it would appeal to many 18 year olds actually going through the UCAS process. It lacks the greater depth of something like Waterloo Road, but if all you want is some glitzy and encouraging song and dance then UCAS is the play for you.

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Alex Green

at 10:26 on 9th Aug 2014

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UCAS - the musical - follows a class of A-level students as they attend an after school clinic in which their optimistic teacher attempts to coerce them into finally writing their personal statements. It’s a plot that most of us can connect with whether we are a student, parent or just a reader of the news.

The musical hovers promisingly over ambitious subjects such as student debt, experience, and the strain that going to University can place on relationships at home. Sadly UCAS brings no new angles to these well-worn subjects, and only leaves a light tread on this commonly traveled path.

In Ms Miller’s class, who act like they’re almost press-ganged into attending, are the usual suspects: the sporty lad with girls on his mind, the quiet geek well prepared for University but feeling the pressure from his family, and the mouthy girl who enjoys keeping the teacher on her toes. All of them problem children, Ms Miller struggles to convince them that applying to University is the wisest choice. Mouthy classmate Paige, played by Kate Hume, provides some snappy laughs and is instantly likeable in her part.

Musicals often tow the thin line between being sickly sweet and heartfelt. This show often falls on the wrong side of this line as each character’s background and relationships are introduced. When crammed into a short song with little forewarning, attempts at creating emotional backstories for the pupils often feel shallow and not entirely believable. This can be seen in pupil Aidan’s discovery that his girlfriend had lied about handing in her UCAS form. With more time this sub-plot could have flourished, but it feels hackneyed in its shortened form.

The band play well but the compositions on show display little variety; after a while finding hooks to distinguish each song becomes difficult. Despite this, moments of vocal class come from the quiet Daniel, played by Oliver Way. Hume, as Paige, dances well to some decent choreography but lyrically the songs are found to be lacking, often relying on simple rhymes to get the point across.

UCAS is sometimes funny, sometimes not. The vocal quality on show is inconsistent, and leaves me feeling like there is potential in the show that is left unfulfilled. It lacks a professional edge and, like the subject matter, struggles to move beyond a quality that one would expect of A level students.

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