EFR - Reviews of Question No. One

Question No. One

Mon 20th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Steve Hartill

at 09:32 on 21st Aug 2012

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This play is written by the company themselves, Blue Dragonfly Productions, and its plot focuses mainly on the singular concept of “the last funeral ever”, as the Grim Reaper himself has committed suicide before the play begins, as well as a subplot that is all about Robin (Hannah Genesius) and the fact that she is terminally ill. The idea is an interesting existential one, if the play treats it correctly; but unfortunately, the script clouds over much of the potential by repeating itself, particularly on the topic of “what happens next?” The idea of a world without death has great potential, but unfortunately, the play concentrates instead on the nitty-gritty details of planning the Grim Reaper’s funeral and, when the Executors (Steph Green, Rose Hardy and Johanna Clarke) do start to discuss the consequences, their conclusion is that they’re not responsible - an answer which is pretty unsatisfying from an audience's perspective. Although the plot between Robin and Jess (Sarah Weston) has the possibility of counteracting this, Robin only finds out that her readiness for death is unnecessary in the last minute of the play: up until then, this sub-plot is just as guilty of seemingly stalling for time and repeating itself, rather than showing the implications that a world without death can have.

The acting also seems fairly rushed, and many of the people on stage are clearly waiting for their cues to deliver their lines, rather than making the play immersive and natural. That being said, they do deliver their lines well, and a particular highlight for me of the entire play is some clever uses of stagecraft. The company use a surrounding circle of desks around the main floor of the stage, and the Executors’ world is set in these desks, while the centre of the stage is for Robin and Jess’ plot. There is also an ominous, empty desk that must have been the Grim Reaper’s before his suicide, and there is inventive use of a set of black crates to convey a variety of different scenes and physical theatre throughout the play. The lighting changes convey the different sub-plots well, and the music does get your attention, if in a bit of a cheap way.

This play certainly comes with plenty of potential, and for a piece written by one of the performers (Sarah Weston), it is well done. I personally am just waiting to see what the cast really think would happen next, rather than watching them avoid the question.

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Chelsey Stuyt

at 12:37 on 21st Aug 2012

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'Question No. One' by blueDragonfly Productions makes so many good offers. A girl struggles with her imminent and untimely end while, unbeknownst to her, Death (The Grim Reaper, aka Mr. G. Reaper (OBE)) has died. However, what follows this fantastic setup is forty minutes of chatter and a lame finish of “what comes next?”. In trying too hard to be clever, the script fails to truly engage with its two fascinating premises – forcing the audience to leave wondering not just, “what comes next”, but “what was the point of what came before?”.

The acting is generally competent, though Hanna Genesius' opening monologue is filled with so much pseudo-poetic adolescent angst masquerading as profundity that it marrs an otherwise solid performance. However, there is one real stand-out in Rose Hardy whose see-things-how-they-are Executor provided the only point of real comedy in the show. Her timing and commitment to her role shone through and showcased a brilliant talent – one that was sorely underused. Unfortunately, her character also pointed out the most irritating plot holes (perhaps the reason that the audience identified with her so much?).

In one particular scene the three executors talk about the absurdity of the death of Death. Again, a scene that is filled with potential – particularly comedic. However, the issue at hand isn't the potential of the concept, it is the writer's inability to commit to its promise and allow it to bear it any interesting fruit. What begins as an intriguing scene is, yet again, ended lamely with a “it's not our job to figure this out, leave it to the audience”. If you're not going to answer the question – or even offer something interesting – why draw attention to it? This only serves to underscore that, while brimming with interesting ideas, the writer ultimately refuses to deal with any of them. The final line of the show is “what comes next?” - a question the playwright clearly couldn't answer.

The staging is interesting with the two sides of the action moving in concentric circles with the more heartfelt in the centre. The lighting cues were perfect and really helped to illuminate the shift between the two stories. However, there was one moment where Steph Green (Executor) helps Hanna Genesius (Robin) up onto a desk. This is the only moment where characters from the two tales touch one another and it is jarring. It appeared that Green was acting as a stage hand, but by looking Genesius in the face she pulled herself too far into the scene, making the audience question who was where. This was confusing and detracted from an otherwise poignant moment in the play.

Ultimately, this is a show with big ideas and big hopes. However, the script needs to take a stand. The audience is looking to be provoked by a statement, not by a question. The programme lists a fairly apt quotation which reads, “Life is a question, no one can answer it... Death is an answer, no one can question it...”. The point of this quotation is that you need both sides. Life and Death, question and answer. Like a life without death, without an answer to the question that 'Question No. One' poses, the audience is left asking, not just “what's next?”, but “what's the point?”.

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