The Lizards

Mon 15th – Sat 20th August 2016

reviews

Miriam Brittenden

at 14:50 on 18th Aug 2016

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Reading that ‘Every generation has its One Directions and its Westlifes’ on the show flyers, I was all ready to sit back and settle into something comedic, light-hearted and perhaps even a bit corny. ‘The Lizards’, however, surpasses that and then some. Don’t get me wrong, it’s funny, satire at its best – but dark satire at that: dealing with depression, disappointment and unrequited love, besides the anticipated bill of sex, drugs and rock n’roll.

The concept is like a fly-on-the-wall drama, backstage at Reading festival, where we meet the Lizards, the band who are due to perform in a couple of hours. You know all those times you’ve read headlines about band feuds and inside fighting? Well here’s your chance to see how that really looks ‘from the inside’. The entire plot unfolds in the few hours backstage before the band’s set at Reading Festival.

There we meet Mark, the despondent, depressed one; Chas, the crazy, drug-addled, feather-headband wearing, (apparently) carefree one; and Will, the unofficial leader and the only one who seems to care about the band’s imminent set (and impending doom). What ensues is an intense hour of drama that ricochets around the men’s unfolding personal lives and relationships with one another.

The acting is incredibly strong. Sandy Thin, Adam Simpson and Adam Evans sustain an excellent dynamic throughout, whilst simultaneously developing their own characters really well. Evans' portrayal of Mark, though a slow burner, offers an emotive and intensely watchable performance. Special mention must also go to Corinna Harrison, whose performance as Pam the manager is convincing as an older woman, and in fact provides some of the best comedy.

The highest commendation however, must go to writer (and director) Nikhil Vyas. As new writing, this piece is particularly impressive. His excellent script is incredibly witty, but maintains great sensitivity and integrity when dealing with some of the show’s grittier themes – mental health, self-harm, and unrequited love. Despite the obvious risk with a play that is essentially about ‘showbiz’, it never slips into clichés or becomes cheesy, and manages to feel completely original throughout.

If I were to offer any criticism, it would be that towards the end of the play, the bigger plot developments feel somewhat rushed and underdeveloped, slightly undermining the authenticity of the piece.

In all, 'The Lizards' is a charmingly witty hour of theatre: funny, original and sensitive. Well worth a watch.

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Laura Whetherly

at 16:45 on 18th Aug 2016

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“My left bollock can play a guitar better than him!” Funny, rude, and ultimately powerful, 'The Lizards', is a piece of new writing by Nikhil Vyas for Durham Student Theatre. It is a fly-on-the-wall look at a boy band on the rocks. Set in the hours leading up to their set at Reading Festival – a last chance to redeem their flagging careers– the cast grapple with a script which touches on themes of love, loneliness and lost opportunity with confidence and ease.

Vyas’ script is a sharp, surprisingly funny, piece of satire, hitting the balance just right between dark themes and one-liners. The opening scenes in particular work well to set up an immediate contrast between the first two characters we meet: hyperactive Chaz (Adam Simpson), and downbeat Mark (Adam Evans). Evans’ initially understated performance masks a really brilliant acting talent which becomes apparent over the next half an hour; Mark’s character is perhaps the most complex of this show, but Evans confidently handles the emotional depth of the role.

Corinna Harrison, playing band manager Pat, is also excellent, and has real authority and presence on stage. “Overgrown prefect” Will (Sandy Thin) completes the cast of four, whose chemistry together is obvious, and really helps to create a naturalistic, well-presented production.

There are times when the plot and acting threaten to get a little 'EastEnders', as the unfolding events become increasingly dramatic. Beginning with one character threatening to do coke before their big performance, countless new discoveries are shared by the characters and audience, winding up the tension until it reaches almost unbearable levels. The cast are easily able to sustain this intensity, balancing the comedy and more serious scenes throughout. It’s also a very poignant piece – look out for the scene about Will at his VI Form reunion, as well as the heartbreaking final scene. Being able to immediately engage the audience and bring them through such an emotional journey is an enviable skill for a show, particularly at the Fringe.

'The Lizards' is an intense, well-crafted piece: 'The Inbetweeners' meets One Direction, with a few narcotics thrown into the mix for good measure. It’s a great example of a show which has made the jump from university production to Fringe performance, and a masterclass in how to craft a successful piece of new writing. Make sure to get yourself down to the show while you can!

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