EFR - Reviews of Gotcha

Gotcha

Wed 14th – Mon 26th August 2013

reviews

Ben Williams

at 05:06 on 18th Aug 2013

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Reading University Drama Society’s adaptation of Barrie Keeffe’s 1977 play ‘’Gotcha’’ tried valiantly to bring this hostage drama set in a school into the modern day. Whilst the intentions are highly commendable, and the end result is certainly visible, it is far from realised onstage and lacks the impact that it has the potential to deliver.

In 1977, the play attempted to confront the introduction of comprehensive schools into the secondary-modern and grammar school system. To make this more current, this production chooses to examine Michael Gove’s introduction of academies. With different funding systems, many feel they may be leaving some students behind, as they push the importance of A Levels and university entrance.

All of this was then combined with a witty and occasionally humorous script, even if some of characters, particularly the teachers, came across as rather clichéd. Unfortunately, the underlying principle - that the teachers can't leave the store room as the schoolgirl could set the fuel tank of her brother’s motorbike alight at any moment, was so bizarre that it severely impaired the credibility of the entire show. The sheer number of "near misses", where the cast was nearly blown up, also quickly began to lose the original impact and undermined the show’s wider message.

With regard to the individual performances, there was a clear divide in this four–man cast. The outstanding performance was certainly from Megan Turnell, who keeps three of her teachers hostage. Turnell maintained a rough external bravado with a depth of character that made the rather touching end to the play incredibly raw and real. Similarly, Jenny Jope as teacher, Lynne, added an intensity and vulnerability to the performance that really helped to carry some of the weaker performances.

Indeed it was Jope’s and Turnell’s performances which really lifted the piece beyond a rather staid and frankly mediocre piece of student theatre and ended up being its saving grace. The play truly has the potential to make a rather poignant critical response to Gove’s recently policies, it is just a little off the mark.

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Emma-Jane Manion

at 10:04 on 18th Aug 2013

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Reading University Drama group take on Barrie Keeffe’s ferocious and damning play about the UK's education system. This is a contemporary take on the original, referencing academies rather than comprehensive schools, as in Keeffe’s original. However, many of the problems faced by young people in schools remain shockingly relevant and unchanged from Keeffe’s time. This is a testament to his writing, but less so to the current state of our education system which seems to be stuck in reverse.

I cannot doubt the strength of the script. It expresses the pain of being thrust into a school system that takes a one-size fits all approach. Our main character, played by Megan Turnell, remains the anonymous kid, deemed lazy and unsuccessful by a school that does not even know her name. Fearful of an uncertain future and angry at the people who promised her success, but failed to deliver, she takes hostage of teachers Ton and Lynne after seeing them clinched in an illicit embrace. She further uses them to lure and trap the head teacher. She then threatens to blow them all up using the open petrol fumes of her motorbike and a lighter. From isolating and aggressive to exposing and vulnerable, this is a gripping piece of drama.

The amateur cast handle the material with maturity, if not quite masterfully. Gabriel Burns makes a truly vile Tom, the hypocritical and nasty teacher, who is the kids' main adversary. Nick Askill as the head teacher I found less convincing; he felt too much of a stereotype. However, the cast worked together cohesively and delivered a good performance.

Ellie Allum-Marshall directs with a light hand creating a claustrophobic and intense atmosphere - effects are used sparingly and subtly. The tension builds between characters as they are locked in a battle for power. The more physical moments, such as fights could have been more polished, as at times they detract from the intensity of the moment.

I found this an affecting piece that exposes the flaws in the culture of merit, achievement and self-identity not only in our schools but in society as a whole. The premise, although dramatic, is disturbingly believable. People pushed to the margins of society have done much worse. An interesting piece, worthy of your time and consideration.

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