EFR - Reviews of Numbers

Numbers

Mon 15th – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Caragh Aylett

at 15:09 on 20th Aug 2016

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A narrative based on a desire to be head girl was never going to make for a gritty, thought provoking piece of theatre. But these Southampton students do manage to deliver a successful hour of entertainment. 'Numbers' is a piece which offers a window into life in a catty, venomous, all-girls boarding school.

The narrative is riddled with clichés and obvious conclusions, from the unpopular student becoming head girl, to the friendship group's breakup at the play's conclusion. Indeed throughout this show, the plot is predictable. The narrative also seems to end somewhat unfinished, I am left feeling that the story has begun and ended with very little in between. The hour is filled with laughter and sass, but it does not take the audience on a journey. There is no poignant message. However, since this piece is not original writing, perhaps the cast cannot be criticised on the narrative of the piece.

Despite the somewhat dull plot, the four female actors do offer some noteworthy performances. In particular, Francesca Scannella’s presentation of Jennifer, a scatty, boy-obsessed sixteen-year-old is impressive. Her embodiment of the character's uncertainty is natural and convincing. This is equated by Samena Brunning’s depiction of Katherine, the favourite and most malevolent. She is believably desperate to make her father proud, and this depth of character is presented well.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast do not quite match these two performances. Felicia de Angeli’s performance of an unpopular girl thrust into the role of head girl is perhaps too much of a caricature - her nervousness is overacted and in places slightly unbelievable. Equally, in her performance as Isabel, Ilsa Jones trips over her lines in several places. This prevents her character from being quite as convincing. Hopefully, this is simply a result of first performance nerves, and will improve as the run continues.

'Numbers' is a good piece of theatre. It is not endlessly interesting or hugely memorable but is nevertheless a well-acted, entertaining hour. The diversity of the audience suggests that it is widely enjoyable by both young and old, making it the perfect family event this Fringe.

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Ellie Donnell

at 21:39 on 20th Aug 2016

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Set in the common room of a catholic girl’s school, ‘Numbers’ by Kieron Barry presents a brutally honest insight into the cruel nature of bullies and, more specifically, adolescent girls. With no scene changes and four ladies cramped into a small room, we watch the progression that takes place when three ambitious schoolgirls attempt to manipulate their victim, Hetty, into relinquishing her recently acquired title of head girl.

Isobel, Jennifer and Katherine are arrogant, pretentious and egotistical. The play begins with the three bickering over the likes of grammatical accuracy, and whether or not Katherine’s overly qualified track record will earn her the position of head girl. Their insufferable unpleasantness is reflected in their well-enunciated yet annoyingly high-pitched voices, and although this supposedly contributes to their self-righteous personas, listening to an hour of screeching does start to ware at your patience. These girls think they’re great - we get it. The performance requires moments of more depth and sincerity.

Felicia de Angeli, as the character of Hetty, performs her victimised persona to an intense degree. She looks uncomfortable throughout the entire performance, wearing a grimace of fear whilst constantly looking at the floor almost breathless with anxiety. However, her hyperbolic helplessness is too whiney to really earn our sympathy, and the acting of the others is more gripping, more interesting even, to watch.

Indeed, as Jennifer’s bottle of Coca Cola unexpectedly fizzes on stage, clearly not a part of the play, it actually provides a moment of comic relief as they momentarily slip into a humorous but all the more natural mode of play. This is the problem I think. The whole thing all feels a little too forced.

It is for this reason that the plays dark and sinister elements contain the most gravitas. As the girls push Hetty to the floor and the verbal bullying is taken to a physical level, the combination of shrill taunting and disturbing screams are enough to make the audience feel deeply uncomfortable. We are not supposed to be annoyed by bullies but unsettled, and it is finally in this distressing scene that the horrible truth is revealed; we see just how far girls will go to get what they want.

Unfortunately the whole play feels a little amateur. It remains, nonetheless, an eye-opening and didactic piece.

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