EFR - Reviews of Queen B

Queen B

Sat 2nd – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 23:12 on 14th Aug 2014

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This is potentially the most Freudian show on at this year’s Fringe, and that is saying something. We begin the story as Amy (Laura Gallop) and Dan (Nick Barker) meet for the first time, in a surprisingly sweet introduction, considering the circumstances. Throughout the play, an original piece of writing by Ben Williamson, we watch the pair’s relationship develop into something altogether more sinister.

Despite Amy’s assertions that she is not trying to replace her recently deceased father, the audience are forced to disbelieve her. Barker’s portrayal of this character is clever and subtle, making her at the same time strong, innocent and vulnerable. As she recounts the fairy tales that her dad made up for her when she was little she seems to regress on stage in front of us, and Dan’s sinister desire to protect her is almost understandable.

Barker does well to hide his character’s dark side until almost the end of the play. Despite the fact that he pays a young girl for sexual favours, then embarks on a relationship with her and, to put it mildly, takes advantage of a girl who is lonely, confused and childish, in the beginning he is almost a sympathetic character. Revelations about his character come as a shock and serve as the climax of the story line.

Both actors did a good job, but Gallop stands out. Her monologues at the end of the production make a show that was previously mediocre into a success, and are incredibly moving. With such a sinister character to portray, I wish that Barker could commit to the more intense moments of the play – though he is good and a bit creepy, he never fully makes the progression into the fully fledged maniac that the script implies he is.

The set and lighting was potentially the most effective part of this play. Although the bee motif is tenuous, and seems unnecessary at times, the beehive/tree house, which is represented by a magical sphere of lights goes a long way to representing the dreams and stories that Amy’s life hangs on by a thread, which makes it more poignant when these eventually go out.

A lot of this show is confusing, and drags at times, but the story is an interesting one, and is told well by Gallop. Great direction and lighting, and a good, if a little unsettling script makes it worth a watch. Although parts made me feel simply uneasy and a little indifferent, the show has great potential.

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Georgina Wilson

at 10:46 on 15th Aug 2014

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“Sexual lust isn’t poetic, and it certainly isn’t romantic”, forty-year-old Dan (Nick Barker) tells us in one of the many monologues that make up this play. But the scene in which he pays the young and recently orphaned Amy (Laura Gallop) to give him a blow job in response to her internet advert takes what should be a sordid scene and transforms it into something halting and poignant.

Dan is no “sexual predator” stereotype. With his glossy mane of hair and white linen shirt he resembles more a cosy lion than a manipulative sadist. Gallop appears initially as likeable as the charmingly feckless but vulnerable Amy. She floats and swears and dances across the stage in a polka dot dress making us as unsure as her unfortunate biology teacher and indeed herself whether she is a child or an adult.

Amy’s father’s recent death means that she is now living with her grandparents. Her first meeting with Dan arises essentially because he was “bored and lonely” one day, and also happened to be eating a disturbingly endearing breakfast of honey cheerios the day he read Amy’s advert. Dan reminds her of her father a lot – although she “really wasn’t trying to replace him”. The acting of both cast members is within the highest tier of quality of the Fringe, and so manages to navigate the overtly Freudian dynamic, maintain credibility, and confront the audience with their instinctive sympathies.

The tensions between the couple are occasionally compromised by a slight mushiness of the script. Amy’s relationship with her ultimately suicidal father was based on stories of bumble-bees (hence, she is the Queen B), and one scene in which Amy recounts one of these stories contains the words “pretty,” “little” and “colourful” just one too many times for the production to be entirely devoid of sentimentality.

The geographical birth-place of these stories, a tree lit up with fairy-lights in a wood, is the setting for many of the later scenes. Night time is beautifully depicted with the fairy-lights and a lamp, and adds to the overall feeling of a highly aesthetic production which jars effectively with the deception and problematic relationships within the play.

I was entirely engaged throughout the hour, and consequently entirely thrown by the rapidly unravelling ending. The play finishes by Amy saying that she’s had enough of people telling her stories, so I won’t tell you that you’ll most definitely be charmed, intrigued and troubled by Queen B all at once. I’ll just tell you that you might be.

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