The Actor's Nightmare

Tue 6th – Thu 8th August 2013

reviews

Eliza Plowden

at 09:55 on 8th Aug 2013

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This dynamic show contains every element of an awful nightmare. Written by Christopher Durang and thoughtfully interpreted by The Bancroft Players, ‘The Actor’s Nightmare’ tells the story of George Spelvin (although even his name is up in the air), an accountant who finds himself thrown in at the deep end, expected on stage in thirty minutes with no idea which role he is supposed to be playing. The action shifts between scenes from ‘Private Lives’, ‘Hamlet’ and many other classics, as we watch George (Adam Deary) repeatedly fail to remember his lines and appease the audience. As the members of the theatre company grow increasingly exasperated with George’s useless attempts at acting, their plays become progressively improvised. The worse the nightmare gets, the more George’s horror entertains the audience.

Although Durang’s script is clever, there is some ambiguity over whether the audience is expected to feel isolated or to engage in every literary reference. However, the Bancroft Players use this to their advantage, overemphasising the obvious literary clichés to underline the play’s comedy. Although the ‘dream play’ genre has the potential for a clichéd ending, with the curtain falling as the protagonist wakes from his nightmare, the final scene of ‘The Actor’s Nightmare’ is by no means anticlimactic. The cast remain strong until the end, an effort that is to be commended after sixty minutes of demanding drama.

Deary is strong as the protagonist. With a role that demands an enormous number of monologues, the actor remains convincing as the somnolent accountant, particularly in George’s more insecure moments. Katherine Stevens is also strong, clearly conveying the egotism of her character, Sarah Siddons, while Frederica Caira provokes many laughs by monotonously reciting Beckett’s “utterly useless” stage directions. The Bancroft Players make the most of the venue, using conventional costumes, lighting and props so as not to detract from Deary’s convincing interpretation of the protagonist. The simple stage effects are successful, such as the cheering of the audience and the flash of their cameras as George emerges on stage in the wrong costume.

‘The Actor’s Nightmare’ is particularly entertaining in the context of The Fringe, providing an all-too realistic reminder of an actor’s biggest fears. I thoroughly recommend this show, even for those unfamiliar with the classic plays so obviously referenced. The Bancroft Players capture the essence of Durang’s witty script; their well-executed performances deserve to be appreciated as much as the story itself.

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Rose Bonsier

at 12:02 on 8th Aug 2013

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The concept of The Actor’s Nightmare is a very interesting one; it takes an actor’s fear of going on stage unprepared to the very extreme. Actor George Spelvin (Adam Deary) finds himself about to go on stage with no idea who he is, which play he’s in, or which role he’s playing. The bizarreness of this situation makes it incredibly funny to watch, as he consequently has to go on with absolutely no clue what he’s doing. As he flounders around trying to find the right lines, we see each of his co-actors becoming increasingly irate with his inability to pick up on the cues they are trying to give him.

Whilst this is very funny to watch, for much of the play I found myself just as confused as George. This, I believe, was the point, as much of the comic effect arose from the fact that the audience had no idea what was going on either. Nevertheless, the play ended a little unsatisfactorily as the circumstances in which George had lost his memory were never adequately explained, although this is quite possibly because, as a nightmare, the play wasn't supposed to make logical sense. The fact that the script switched between different plays and that Adam appeared to be involved in several plays at once added to this confusion.

The odd nature of the viewing experience, however, certainly doesn't detract from the fact that the script and the way it was acted made this a very funny performance. Deary is clearly a fantastically talented actor with a very comical stage presence. He played the typical bemused bloke in an understated way that was well suited to the situation. The four other cast members are also strong actors who fitted their roles very well, and I particularly enjoyed Fredrica Caira's performance as an impatient and humiliated Ellen Terry.

This is altogether a great start for a play which could go far, but needs a little more fine tuning. One thing I can be sure of is that this is a creative and able young company with bags of raw talent, and I expect them to have every success in the future.

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