Tape

Sun 10th – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Freya Judd

at 10:33 on 12th Aug 2014

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Tape started out extremely promisingly. The set – a stereotypical American motel room, complete with suspiciously unclean loo – looked exciting. The man passed out on the bed looked even more so. Sadly, when the lights came up, early promise descended into tedium.

The play, written by Stephen Belber, is based on the premise of two old school friends reuniting and discussing events that had happened twenty years previously. At the heart of the script lies the question of whether or not John had raped Vincent’s ex-girlfriend Amy at an end of high-school party. Rape is always a tricky issue to navigate around, and here I felt that the navigation was sloppy and haphazard.

The appearance of Amy onto the scene turned the show into a three-hander, and signified the moment when the show began to lose its way. Somehow Vince – working purely on random assumption, it seems –persuaded John that he did in fact rape Amy. Amy oscillated between asserting that he did and he didn’t on a moment’s whim, without any real explanation behind her behaviour. None of the three actually ever seemed to understand what the other is talking about. It would have been nice to have some clarification. As it stands, the use of rape as a catalyst for character exposition without ever actually engaging with the theme of consent, or showing sensitivity about PTSD, made me deeply uncomfortable.

The problems of the script can’t, however, be lumped on the production company. There was some strong acting from the cast – Sam Dobson as the beleaguered Vince who has lost his way in life was rather convincing, and there were good moments from Will Kynaston as Jon.

Impressively, the need for American accents throughout the hour and a half didn’t in any way hamper the cast, whose intonation was as good as many British West-End actors. However, this couldn’t stop me from gently becoming bored throughout the performance. I often wished that the characters (none of whom were particularly likeable) would just shut up, and I found Amy’s oddly emotionless expression combined with a completely unexpected speech about torturing Jon deeply bizarre.

I have no doubt that the members of Gone Rogue productions are talented – I just wish that they had chosen a different script through which to express their talent. Tape needed extensive cutting and reworking to make it an enjoyable play throughout, and I can’t help but feel that choosing it was a serious misstep for the company

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Hannah Blythe

at 11:35 on 12th Aug 2014

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Gone Rogue Productions have chosen to take on some tricky subject matter. A pair of old high school buddies meet up in a motel room ten years after graduating. Their encounter is initially friendly, but, when Vincent’s ex-girlfriend crops up, things take a sinister turn. Gone Rogue tackle the challenging theme with sensitivity and creative flair.

Tape’s stage set-up proved highly effective. The audience seating boxed the performers into the motel room in which all the drama took place, generating an oppressive sense of entrapment. In fact, viewers were drawn into the performance before they were even seated. Accompanied by Johnny Cash’s sombre reminder that ‘God’s gonna cut them down,’ the audience walked into a dimmed room to find Vincent sprawled across a motel bed, which was positioned depressingly close to a toilet. A grim sense of foreboding permeated the atmosphere.

Tape relied upon the capabilities of just three actors. Sam Dobson (Vince) and Will Kynaston (Jon) gave especially pleasing representations of two troubled young men. What was more, the whole cast’s American accents were impeccable throughout. The script was exhaustingly serious, and the actors did well to ensure that the show remained challenging, tense and engaging.

For the majority of the time, Tape lived up to its billing as a ‘fast-paced drama.’ However, the tempo did fluctuate, and there were moments when the intense dialogue began to stagnate. There were also times when the speech appeared over crafted. For example, Amy possessed a little too much eloquence when she described her feelings towards Jon. Considering that Amy was acting in the heat of very intense moment, a greater sense of spontaneity would have been appropriate.

Last night Tape attracted an unusually small crowd. The limited turnout was perhaps due to a combination of difficult subject matter, late showing and a more peripheral venue. Whatever reason, the cast dealt well with this. Sometimes a small audience can detract from a performer’s energy and focus, but not a single actor could be accused of letting it bother them.

Tape tackled some challenging subject-matter boldly and without cliché. The occasional slowing of pace and episode of wooden acting detracted only slightly from a commendable production. Tape provided a serious social examination and was an engaging alternative to the more prolific acts at the Fringe.

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