EFR - Reviews of Can't Buy Me Love

Can't Buy Me Love

Mon 12th – Sat 17th August 2013

reviews

Emma-Jane Manion

at 09:13 on 14th Aug 2013

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‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ is a reworking of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ by students from the International School of Lausanne (ISL) in Switzerland. It is not a Beatles medley with a shoddy story tacked onto it, as the name suggests. There is not even a cheesy and misjudged dance number at the end.

The premise is typically teenage. It is a play about putting on a play. So far, so meta. And it’s a modern interpretation of a Shakespearean play. And it’s all about those pesky teenage problems. This production impressively squeezes all these clichés into a small place. The script, by Lara Davidson and Lily Johnson, borrows heavily from the modern classic ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’, the nineties teen-film reworking of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. More than a few lines seem to be lifted directly from the film itself. However, it lacks everything that made the movie so great: a riot grrrl-lite soundtrack, Heath Ledger singing and dancing on the bleachers, and a baby-faced Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This production needs to be less awkwardly adolescent and more energetically youthful.

Lara Davidson’s direction is GCSE Drama 101. It is a strange amalgamation of techniques that don’t quite work. Scenes occur onstage whilst redundant characters mime awkwardly alongside them. People stomp on and off stage during pointless blackouts. The end result is messy. The final moments are particularly strange – a spot-lit exchange between warring couple Dan and Anna. It tries to be both serious and funny but achieves neither to great success. It also seems a rather subdued ending to the whole thing.

Nonetheless, this is an endearing attempt, all blushes and stumbles, as a group of young people try to establish themselves as potential actors. Some achieve this more convincingly than others. Claire Billington clearly relishes the role of Lars, the highly strung and saucy director, although she ranges from genuinely funny to overly zealous and screechy. Still, her unwanted counselling sessions with Anna (Julie Simmond) and her inappropriate flirtations with school rebel and reluctant stage director Dan (Benson Braunius) are some of the highlights of the play.

I can’t really criticise the youthful enthusiasm which earnestly fumbles about the stage in ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. However, this is a school production and it looks like a school production. I admire their ambition but perhaps the Edinburgh Festival (and the rather steep ticket price of £7) is a little too much for this student production. Also, if your title suggests there’s going to be a song and dance number (a la ‘Twist and shout’ in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’) then there better be one...

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Frank Lawton

at 10:11 on 14th Aug 2013

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This is a show in the process of learning to walk, a show in the process of learning to be confident, and a show that will no doubt improve with each performance. With a young and seemingly inexperienced cast, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ has the air of a school production, which is understandable, seeing as that’s precisely what it is.

Tiptoeing the line between the film ‘Ten Things I Hate about You’ and Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, the script is undoubtedly funny, with multiple laugh-out-loud moments as it stands. However, there is still room for the cast to coax more out of it since many of the comic moments lose their edge as a result of poor timing, cadence or intonation. Lines are too frequently delivered in a jarring or faltering manner which suggests cast members may not have as iron a grip on the script as it deserves.

This affects not just the intended impact of the comedic script but also the more poignant passages, and, in particular, the moments of revelation. These frequently came across as unbelievable, as if the moment of revelation was not pertaining to a character’s dialogue but the mere fact the actor had remembered his lines. The performance would be helped an infinite amount if it was merely sped up, infusing the dialogue with a greater fizz and deploying the comedy’s punch-counterpunch nature to a much higher degree. Luckily, these problems are easily solved and, seeing as this production is in its infancy, one hopes they will be.

The acting leaves something to be desired in certain instances (as do the stage entrances which are rather messy at present), however, in most cases, the cast grew into their roles as the show progressed, particularly the quintessential American high school girl, Candice (Lily Johnson), and the gruff tough-guy, Dan (Benson Carmassi). Lars (Claire Billington) showed much promise in the opening scenes, playing the aggressively flirtatious director with a natural ease. However, when it came to portraying her hysterical side, Billington went too far too early, making it difficult to develop her anger in her breakdown phase, which did her earlier excellent work a disservice.

If you were looking for Beatles’ musical numbers, well, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you were looking for a a rough-edged production that will mature and learn to walk with confidence, then step right in, although, at this stage, I fear it is hard to justify its £7 ticket price.

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