EFR - Reviews of Doll

Doll

Tue 7th – Sat 11th August 2012

reviews

Sara Pridgeon

at 09:45 on 8th Aug 2012

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Doll is a show with a crazy premise: Ethan’s (Curtis Randall) love for his wife, Monica (Iona Townshend), knows no bounds – but Monica is a sex doll. In an attempt to become closer to her, he decides to become plastic with the help of Doctor Whiteman (Liam McCormick, who also wrote and directed), and things go downhill from there. Unaided by bad writing and equally bad acting, this show is among the worst that I’ve seen. It is also one of the funniest, though this is almost certainly unintentional - it is well deserving of the title “so bad it’s funny”. Though its quality is lacking, it is well worth a watch and the price of admission.

The writing was uninspired, passionless and clumsy. The acting fared no better. Apart from the lacklustre dialogue, the production’s biggest problem was the lack of emotion shown by the actors. They placed far too much weight on the (poorly written) words, and as such, emotions were carried in the lines themselves without any indication of how characters had reached that point. This led to brief, sudden spikes of emotion (usually anger) which were largely inexplicable. The flow of the dialogue was extremely uneven, as the responding lines did not match the intensity of those prior. This was visible in nearly all the high intensity interactions between Ethan and the doctor – Ethan would react to something, emotion supposedly heightened, and Doctor Whiteman would respond by yelling, “calm down!” This could have been perfectly acceptable, but based on what was shown on stage, Ethan didn’t need to calm down at all. The actors need to let their emotion grow more organically; otherwise, it is devoid of substance and is based solely on the script. That having been said, much of the comedy appreciated by the audience derives from this problem.

'Doll' was further hampered by its set changes. They were long, obtrusive, and awkward; fixing them would make for a much slicker show. The set was worrying at times, as the shelf unit – and the wine bottles and glasses on it – swayed dangerously when touched or approached. The lighting is in need of both more rehearsal and more carefully thought-out design. Cues were not hit sharply; the fire scene, in which Ethan purposefully burns himself so that he will need prosthetics, was cheesy. A dull red light was cast across the stage, and though accompanied by (unconvincing) agonized screams, this failed to create an atmosphere that would suggest the horror of a burning person. Giving further attention to transitions between scenes, to the handling of props, and to the lighting would be easy improvements for 'Doll'.

All in all, 'Doll' is fantastically bad. The story is odd and doesn’t make much sense; the acting, directing, and writing leave much to be desired. Somehow these elements combine into something hugely entertaining, something so absurd that it is well worth watching.

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James Fennemore

at 10:07 on 8th Aug 2012

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‘Doll’ is a production so extraordinary that it exists outside the capabilities of criticism and language. It is unremittingly awful; it is utterly superb. Seeing it is an event, a moment where its audience meets in a momentary communion in which we witness the fully monstrous and diabolical potential of how bad theatre can really be. It is unmissable.

‘Doll’ tells the story of Ethan (Curtis Randall), who has fallen in love with his sex-doll, Monica. He is so infatuated with her that he attempts to enter a new harmonious world of union, by setting fire to himself with the hope that doctors will be forced to cover him in plastic. Dr Whiteman (Liam McCormick) discovers his secret, and helps him replace every organ of his body with a prosthetic equivalent. But then the good doctor falls in love with Monica. It doesn’t end well.

Yet this synopsis, dire as it may sound, does not even come close to uncovering the abysmal depths to which this production hurls itself, tumbling and screaming. Were I to brainstorm every facet of a bad play, I couldn’t come close to the plethora of delights with which the Inverness Satellite Towns Drama Society present us. It’s all there. The writing is truly dreadful, ranging from the emotionally insincere, to the bizarre, to the laughably explicit. This is reinforced by acting and delivery often more terrible than I could believe.

And there’s more. The effect of fire has been created by whacking some red gels into the lights and having the actors writhe around on the floor, screaming. The production team seems to have blown its entire budget on a sex-doll, and, presumably, pawned their mobile phones to cover the costs. Because when Ethan calls the police, he mimes a phone. The bottles of wine are empty; the drinking again is mimed. There are 30 second blackouts between scenes, in which often as little as two chairs are moved. Anger is replaced by a lot of lapel-grabbing, and the actors have no sense of a need to remain in character and continue their emotional performances when not speaking. You could drive a fleet of juggernauts through the space which they leave between their cues.

But it’s brilliant. It bends the spectrum of star-ratings like no show I have ever seen before. Because although I give it only one star, it shares many attributes with a lot of five star shows: I’d happily see it again; I could not help but laugh raucously through its entirety; I came out excited and energised, with a desire to talk about it long after I had left the studio.

‘Doll’ may be the worst show I see all Fringe, but it’s certainly the one I’ll be recommending to everyone I see.

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