EFR - Reviews of A Little Piece of Heaven

A Little Piece of Heaven

Tue 13th – Sun 18th August 2013

reviews

Hazel Rowland

at 04:59 on 15th Aug 2013

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‘A Little Piece of Heaven’ sets itself up for a fall from the start. For a production with a cast all under-eighteens, it attempts too much. It follows a group of teenagers locked in a house as they try to assemble an army to fight against an unknown conspiracy theory during the 2012 Olympic Games. The premise is an odd one, and is not helped by an incoherent script.

To start with, there are too many characters; there is not a single scene change and the characters rarely go off stage. This eradicates any sense of privacy between characters, and the audience is distracted by a stage cluttered with people. Although this means there is a range of characters, instead of developing them, they are assigned predictable teenage stereo-types. There is the emo, the nerd, the chav and the overtly camp. Regrettably, they are purely the result of lazy scriptwriting, which relies on the audience’s preconceptions for the construction of its characters.

The villain of the musical, Dom (Joe McWilliam), was an opportunity to create a complex individual. There could have been interesting questions surrounding what was motivating him, and why he has this thirst for power. None of these are answered, and accepting that he is ‘evil’ just for the sake of it is unsatisfying. His relationship with Shanie (Angelica Hughes) is unconvincing too. There is not enough time for any chemistry to be built up between them before his profession of “I love you”, so it sounds empty. Remarkably, this actually leads to a kiss!

The songs could have been the saviour of a poor script but they are unfortunately rather samey. There are some promising voices however, especially Hughes’, whose duet with Stephanie Garratt is the most heart-felt moment in the production. Overall, the interaction between the characters is more compelling during the songs, as singing comes more naturally than acting for most of the cast.

While it seems cruel to criticise a company that describes itself as a ‘social enterprise’ that fosters the talents of young people, there are too many faults which have to be commented upon. The static staging, the unnecessarily large cast, and the unsophisticated script produce a musical that is both confusing, and largely absent of feeling.

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Emma-Jane Manion

at 09:48 on 15th Aug 2013

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‘A little Piece of Heaven’, written and directed by Haley Cox of the Duckegg theatre company, is a weird and wonderful rock musical about cults, masonic imagery, Twitter and the real conspiracy behind the 2012 Olympics. Shanie (Angelica Hughes) finds herself the figurehead of a cult who believe the apocalypse will occur after the Olympics, after discovering that the logo could be rearranged to spell the word Zion. Soon she finds herself caught up in a power struggle with the manipulative Dom (Joe McWilliam) and Martha the ‘Whale Shark’ (Tilly Needham). Both exhilarating and confusing, this is a play bursting at the seams with ideas, not all of which work.

The show begins with the Tim (Matthew Crowe) narrating a modern fairy tale. It is not apparent why the play starts like this; this is typical of the problem of the pieces – too many ideas are incomplete and without proper purpose. We get a taste of how these scene could be more successful if performed with a greater focus.

The cast is large, but each actor holds their own very well. Characters avoid being clichéd because each performer manages to bring their personal perspective to the role. They are a strong and untied group. This is reinforced by the musical number which allowed for each actor to have a solo, whilst also maintaining chorus numbers. Each voice has its own distinct quality, from the big, musical theatre vocals of Hughes and Needham, to the less polished and more characterful voices of Stephanie Garret and Shannon Mae Brooks. I also enjoyed the cast playing their own musical instruments, but occasionally this can verge on being a skills showcase rather than a cohesive piece of theatre.

I feel Cox is definitely trying to get across a message, but the cast do not understand what they are trying to communicate. Allusions to cults and sects, and Masonic, Christian and Jewish imagery are inserted with little subtlety. The songs are used to pose some big questions: our desire to put our faith in something greater, self-sacrifice for the good of the group, the power of suggestion and our desire to find order in chaos. It is not shallow but basic, perhaps because Cox takes on too much. This can lead to an audience member feeling ostracised from the story, and emotional investment is abandoned. We spend our time chasing a meaning rather than enjoying the performance.

Lively and ambitious, ‘A little piece of Heaven’ is a melting pot of ideas, but the purpose of the piece is unclear and leaves the audience feeling confused. An interesting piece which entertains in the moment, but fails to leave a lasting impression.

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