EFR - Reviews of REPLAY

REPLAY

Thu 31st July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Gender Trouble

at 22:58 on 15th Aug 2014

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Replay follows the story of piano teacher Freya and the infatuation she has with her pupil James. Her infatuation leads her to drug James and the guilt of this crime causes her eventual suicide.

A story you may have heard before? Well, as Freya's old uni friend eventually points out "This is no Romeo and Juliette. Wandering around with potions and everything. Quite frankly it's more like Lolita!".

'Replay' and 'Lolita' may share the theme of paedophillia, but sadly the similarities end there. The play is critically let down by its writing and its two dimensional characters. Freya's old friend is vividly no more than a plot device in exaggerating the guilt she endures, as is the character of James's mother.

Dialogue within the play is equally unconvincing, from such lines as "You're very succinct with your words Freya. Succinct like a sphinx" to the cringingly unbelievable description of a suicide note as the "final pirouette upon the grave". The plot is also slow to progress, and one can't help but find Freya's suicide helplessly predictable, given how moved she was by James's sister's own suicide weeks previously.

The production also grapples with logistical problems. These range from the overacting of the chorus roles to moving a bathtub on stage and distracting us in the middle of dialogue, rather than in the blackout five seconds previously.

Overall, 'Replay' failed to engage. This was a shame, as it compromised the capacity of the play to communicate anything greatly meaningful about paedophilia.

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Tania Nicole Clarke

at 02:12 on 16th Aug 2014

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‘Replay’ stages the problematic issue of paedophilia, a deeply sensitive and potentially ill-fated topic for an amateur performance to tackle. Onstage Tonight Productions give what is overall a solid performance staging a thought-provoking piece of new writing.

The scene on stage as we file in foregrounds an unsettling atmosphere. The lead character, Freya, sits alone on stage listening to piano music, and then begins hysterically searching through a wooden crate for something. It isn’t until midway through the performance that we realise that Freya was desperately riffling through her collection of personal photographs for a picture of her favourite pupil, James.

Replay follows the psychological journey of James, a student who has recently lost his sister to suicide, but the story is told from the perspective of his piano teacher, Freya, who is so obsessed with her favourite pupil that she desperately wants to share his grief. Freya admits she shares “a delicious alliance” with James, but we soon become aware that Freya is taking advantage of a vulnerable, emotionally fragile young boy. James is “not normal”, he doesn’t understand the relationship between actions and emotions, and the awkward chemistry achieved between James and Freya on stage accurately portrays James’ mental condition.

The performance does suffer from a slight lack of pace, and thus sometimes loses all direction, but this is mainly due to the episodic nature of the writing itself which reflects the fragmented, hysteric mental state of the characters. Another downfall which has to be mentioned is the lack of vocal projection from the actors. This is mainly a problem at the beginning of the performance as music is played under an important conversation which essentially underpins the main plot line, but also happens occasionally in intimate, reflective moments when dialogue becomes muffled.

But the production certainly cannot be criticised for its tightly-knit ensemble work which is superbly slick, clever and inventive. The script is brave, tackling the concern of paedophilia through a very specific and complex lens; the writing is brought to life through haunting choral speaking, stylized movements and multi-role play, which all lend their hand in helping us comprehend the sickening infatuation Freya has with her pupil.

The production does well in not relying on any props or special effects to tell the story; it is free of any faff and the creative decisions that have been made are all effective in enhancing the strong standard of acting on stage. Some particularly effective choices include the sound of a radio crackling as it tunes in and out, as well as the use of torches, which are used briefly in an interrogation scene; these are shone threateningly on Freya and used to illuminate the faces of the ensemble members. Simple directorial decisions such as this are used throughout to tell the story in new, experimental ways.

Unfortunately the ending is incongruous and doesn’t quite work, Freya makes a sudden shift to speak directly to the audience in trying to justify her emotions towards James. We feel horrifically uncomfortable and vulnerable as audience members as we are essentially asked to pardon the perplexing infatuation Freya has for her student.

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