Normal

Thu 9th – Sat 11th August 2012

reviews

Lettice Franklin

at 21:16 on 9th Aug 2012

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1disagrees

This play by Paul Wallis is set in a state where Big Brother-esque Normal Inspectors have the nation under duress, making normality compulsory, and individuality and imagination punishable offenses. The audience is invited into the sitting room of Davy (Ronan Doyle) and his Mum (Jennie Fogg), which is clearly supposed to be a last bastion of excitement and uniqueness. Unfortunately, from its Ikea-esque sofa to its lack-lustre dialogue, it is short in the very qualities it champions.

The play has redeeming features. Ronan Doyle is a natural - lounging on the sofa like he owns it, and seeming totally unconscious to the audience metres away. Jennie Fogg’s facial expressions won me over, especially when she takes on the personas of a pirate or circus performer. Bernie Munro’s Inspector also deserves praise; his camp giggles and nervy exclamations were entertaining.

All the actors however should take care to project their voices more and to speak slower; the play’s opening lines were near incomprehensible. Paradise in Augustine’s is a tricky venue - words easily get lost in the high-vaulted church - so attention should be paid to volume.

It is a pity that lines were swallowed as the script boasts some witty repartee. Jokes like the Mum’s answering of the Inspector’s query of “Sex?” with “Not for a while”, provoke deserved laughs among the audience. The script and play falls down however when it comes to climactic moments. Sections where characters detail their childhood dreams and then somehow fall into an enactment of them are confusing rather than enchanting - if they were imbued with more magic and excitement they would be easier to accept. Dream and ‘normality’ are at these moments almost indistinguishable, and characters seem embarrassed rather than enthralled by their chance to venture into the imaginary.

The programme boasts that the play is a ‘subversive call for revolt against conformity’ - but I felt little desire to storm the streets. It would be possible to excuse simplicity or blandness because of this show’s target audience being teenagers - however this should surely create only greater need to excite what must be one of the hardest to impress crowds around. In short I don’t think the Man has much to worry about from this regretfully normal production.

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Claire Dalling

at 09:16 on 10th Aug 2012

0agrees

1disagrees

I had high hopes for ‘Normal’, the Trinity College London award-winning play currently being performed by Perth Youth Theatre at Paradise in Augustine’s. But between the static direction and listless performances, I left feeling distinctly underwhelmed.

Based around the unanswerable question ‘What is normal?’, the play tells the tale of one family’s visit from the ‘Normal Inspector’, who assesses their behaviour by asking a variety of probing questions and setting ludicrous challenges. Just as they persuade the Inspector that his career, and life in general, is ultimately pointless, an Inspector of Inspectors arrives. Paul Wallis’ script did contain some genuine wit, but the show’s basic premise – although interesting – is far from original. It’s not ‘a scathing satire on contemporary surveillance society, and subversive call for a revolt against conformity’. It’s just not. Although I cannot deny that at times it made me laugh, many of the jokes fall regrettably short. This is partly due to the sheer pace with which the cast tackle the dialogue: billed as a fifty-minute production, we were out in a mere half hour. They may be word perfect, but if you’re not used to Scottish accents and sit near the back, you’ll probably not have the chance to appreciate it.

Despite this, there were some positive aspects to the production. The ‘look’ is very strong, with striking bright colours that mirror this world’s acerbic and indisputable feeling of right and wrong, of normal and strange. Bernie Munro’s portrayal of Inspector 0128 is similarly bold and commendable. He frankly conveys the confident but ignorant psyche of this imagined future, and seems to have a real sense of comic timing. Unfortunately, his strengths highlight the weaknesses of the rest, who are as watercolour to his abstract vivacity. I didn’t get the impression that the cast as a whole truly cared about the script, or their performances, and that made it hard for me to care either. There is a chilling message underneath it all – even if it is recycled – but it is all but hidden by the lukewarm cast. There is some evidence of Alasdair Hunter’s direction, but much of the action is so stagnant that it became, dare I say it, boring.

This is a show that was written for a teenage audience, and there is every possibility that a teenager much younger than me might enjoy and learn from it. But I can’t help but suggest that they just read ‘1984’ instead.

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Comments

Clinton Rae; 10th Aug 2012; 14:42:56

I saw Normal this morning and don't recognise it from these reviews! I heard (virtually) every word and laughed a lot - as did the rest of the audience. Maybe the cast have just upped their performance from yesterday, and if so they should be really proud of themselves!

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