EFR - Reviews of Cartwheels

Cartwheels

Wed 31st July – Sun 25th August 2013

reviews

Georgina Wilson

at 09:26 on 9th Aug 2013

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Three students. One foetus. So says the aggressively eye-catching tagline. In fact there are multiple foetuses, small plastic ones littered about in one corner of the tiny, intimate stage, surrounded on two side by perhaps forty audience members.

I’m not quite sure what to expect, when three students bounce onto stage and begin a witty and realistic conversational depiction of a (philosophy) student’s life. The script writing (James Hart), has some fabulous moments. One of my (and the audience’s) particular favourites is when the only male member of the three-person cast (Nathaniel Mccartney) is teased about his sexuality by his two female friends; grimly, he protests against their insistence that his genitals are “limp like a condom full of yoghurt”.

Yet as Karen (Sophie White) protests later, “this isn’t a f***ing debating competition”. No, its not, and sometimes the eloquence of the scriptwriter gets in the way of the realism which the cast can do so effectively. Long meaningful soliloquies about the meaning of life are quite likely in a toast-filled kitchen after a wild night out, but in the midst of the full traumas of the play I would have liked to see all the cast members sticking to the stuttering half-sentences of panic.

Alongside the horrific realism of an unwanted pregnancy (those little plastic foetuses remain lying accusatorily on the floor), the play attempts to spread itself further into the realms of what can only be described as science fiction. I wasn’t at all convinced by this second dimension, which also strengthens the significance of two cast members to the exclusion of the third. Despite the truly applaudable acting of Sophie White (who I genuinely forgot was “only pretending” in a way which is rare for a student production) her character, Karen, was notionally the more minor part of three. Too often she was shunted off stage and we were left with the other two sitting on deck chairs, discussing smoking and childhood stories in a way which screamed unsubtly – “psychological development of characters taking place here!!” These Godot-esque deck-chair scenes are explained at the very end of the play, and much as I’m all for a tale-with-a-twist I was more put-out by the ongoing confusion, than intrigued by the unexplained waiting.

This play has some great observations to make about life, and some compelling comments to make about moral choices. Just occasionally the characters get lost in the heart-felt angst of their philosophies, but then maybe that’s a great observation and a compelling comment to make about the danger of philosophy degrees.

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Flo Layer

at 09:41 on 9th Aug 2013

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It’s not often that you will experience a show which explores quite so many controversial issues in an hour as Reverie Production’s ‘Cartwheels’. The simple strap-line – “One Hour – Three Students – One Foetus” is the starting point of an overwhelming list of philosophical and ethical debates, from sexual orientation, abortion, adoption, religion’s place in the world, life and death, action and consequence and growing up. It is a coming of age story with a conscience and an incomprehensible magical twist; one which will leave you contemplative, tired and slightly bemused by the world.

As a student myself, it is easy to say that the three actors, Fiona Wardle, Nathaniel McCartney and Sophie White, got it absolutely spot-on when recreating that beautiful shrine of student living: the student kitchen space. Their acting was incredibly natural, and they worked together with inestimable ease. James Hart’s writing kicks into full realist swing as McCartney’s conscientious, over-thinking Dorian dynamically grates against the ballsy, crude commentary of Karen (White) while indecisive, apathetic Amy (Wardle) gets left stranded as piggy-in-the-middle. Hart brightens up the otherwise overly intense controversial debate with some brilliantly funny lines from Karen – the crude observation of a girl in a bodycon dress as “a badly packed f****ing sausage” is just one of such gems. It is a group of characters with both comic and sincere possibilities, and writing which should be applauded for its easy natural realism.

This realism, however, is split up by the continual transfer to the neighbouring set of a less than usual picnic. The blood red blanket is creepily littered with little plastic foetuses, which, although at first remain unacknowledged, nevertheless provide a disjunctive visual contrast to the excessive drinking and floating clouds of artificial cigarette smoke. It is a scene which remains frustratingly, rather than intriguingly, unexplained. The promise of a ‘magical-realist fairytale for grown-ups’ interrupted rather than added to the otherwise captivating performances and I continually dreaded the strange final revelation where we would understand the significance of these eerily stranded foetuses.

The final magical explanation left me feeling frustratingly confused. The ‘magical’ was unfortunately not integrated well enough into the ‘realism’ and the lack of soundtrack left the performance feeling somewhat bare. Despite brilliant acting, it’s a script which aims a little too high and just misses the mark of complete comprehensibility.

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