Rants, Bantz & Comas

Mon 11th – Thu 21st August 2014

reviews

Fergus Morgan

at 18:40 on 16th Aug 2014

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An essential facet of successful family dramas is the presence of believable relationships. One needs to comprehend the history of a couple’s marriage in their interaction, feel the depth of bitterness in the arguments of two sisters, and sense the unspoken emotion between father and son-in-law. Sadly, with Rants, Bantz and Comas, Joshua Petrini’s short play about a rift-ridden family thrown together by tragedy, the few convincing relationships and commendable performances are lost in an all-too-contrived plot.

Amber Sheridan and Melissa Campbell play Diane and Denise, two estranged sisters who are thrown together at their father’s hospital bed, following his involvement in a serious car accident. Weary mother of Katie (Sophie Hodgson) and suspicious wife to Kev (John Fairless), Diane has no time for the pretensions of her sister, who is herself burdened by an inept but well-meaning husband (Henry Inman). Old wounds reopen and arguments flare up as the family attempts to find their feet in the face of calamity.

Sheridan is adept as Diane; her transitions between fierce aggression and simpering affection are at times a little sudden, but her derisive attitude towards Denise is thoroughly believable. Fairless is similarly competent. His interaction with Sheridan, although stilted at times, is largely compelling and one is dimly aware of an emotional history. The same cannot be said of Inman and Campbell, whose relationship seems altogether artificial, partly due to a lack of intimacy.

The piece contains a modicum of humour, mostly drawn from the male characters’ anxiety to avoid conflict. Writer/director Petrini makes an entertaining appearance as a bungling trainee nurse and a brief discussion between Kev and Keith on the subject of their frustrated libido is a memorable highlight - ‘Sex life of a nun, balls like a turkey’s neck’.

For the most part, Petrini shuns humour in an attempt to confront "deeper issues". Drug addiction, infidelity and class all receive attention, but it rarely amounts to more than a brief nod. When coupled with some regrettably clunky dialogue, this lack of focus ensures the audience is left uncomfortably unsure of the play’s intentions.

Ultimately, Rants, Bantz and Comas suffers most from the artificiality of its plot. The conflicts and reconciliations that pepper the play feel frustratingly forced. Aside from that between Sheridan and Fairless, the majority of the piece’s relationships leave a similar impression.

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Matthew Lavender

at 01:07 on 17th Aug 2014

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Despite a storyline with deeper and more serious undertones, Rants, Bantz and Comas left me somewhat underwhelmed due to the amateurish air that it emitted from the outset, and only partially managed to overcome.

Initial fears that the show would fail to exceed the standard expected of a senior school production were fortunately dispelled by a steady improvement as the show ran its course. Leading pair Amber Sheridan and John Fairless grew much more comfortably into their roles as married couple Diane and Kev as the show progressed. However, the improvement was limited, and only went so far.

The story centred upon how a family, with its internal divisions and tensions, dealt with the tragic loss of one of its members. The relationships between the individuals that comprised the family were fundamental to the success or failure of the production, and it is here that the show really fell short.

The only relationship that felt truly convincing was that between Kate – the successful lawyer daughter of Diane and Kev – and her foppish, out-of-place husband Andrew, for which a great deal of credit must go to Sophie Hodgson, who still exuded the arrogant personality of her character even when silent.

Nearly all of the other relationships – and certainly the most central ones – lacked a sense of credibility. The script suggested a turbulent and chaotic history between the interacting individuals, but it was not sufficiently exposed by the actors. This resulted in the feeling that the audience were not being given full access to the complexity clearly contained within the relationships; a gaping hole in the show that nothing else was able to fill sufficiently.

A mention must be made of Joshua Petrini, who wrote and directed the show. Though slightly clichéd, the show did contain fleeting moments of genuine comedy, and a few very touching emotional instances. Both Petrini and the actors who took centre stage in these moments (Sheridan and Fairless) deserve credit.

On the whole, the show certainly did improve as it progressed, as the intricacies of the characters’ personalities became clearer and the plot developed to reveal more of the families’ internal frictions. But the show emanated an amateurish air throughout that was, ultimately, its downfall.

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