EFR - Reviews of Chapel Street

Ellie Donnell

at 10:52 on 19th Aug 2016

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‘Chapel Street’ follows the lives of two contrasting, and eventually inebriated, teens whose separate story lines converge during an eventful drunken night out. The lamentable positions of tempestuous Joe and University hopeful, Kirsty, are painted in bawdy humour, sexual innuendo and an inappropriateness that is always kept within the realms of funny.

‘Chapel Street’'s impressiveness stems from the magnificent stamina Jessica Melia and Christopher Roud maintain throughout the entire performance. The production is compiled into a series of freeze frames in which Kirsty and Joe engage in gregarious dialogue, speaking not to each other but to the audience. The acting is overzealous, expressive and captures the childish energy and youthful naivety of two teenagers who are actually struggling to find their place in the world.

Despite dealing with teenage pregnancy, along with the uncomfortable nature of fancying your best friend's dad, the performance remains consistently funny throughout. The seating is limited and the room space incredibly snug rendering the audience unnervingly close to the stars of the show. Kirsty and Joe sit in a spare front row seat on numerous occasions whilst Joe bravely ‘excuses’ himself as he brashly walks down an aisle of the audience. The play includes and immerses you in its gritty storyline and cleverly involves the audience by bravely joining them in their own seats as opposed to awkwardly asking for their help in the show. I was, however, glad that I had not chosen to sit in the front row. Joe frequently chooses to freeze ridiculously close to a particular member of the audiences face, eyes wide and pointing his finger, whilst the same poor soul is selected for Kirsty to act out drinking body shots off him. Luckily he found it just as funny as the rest of us, but I don’t think I would have fancied it.

Unfortunately, there is a moment where one begins to check one's watch a little too often. There are no particularly weak or boring parts to the performance, but rather the sheer speed with which they speak, along with the two separate yet closely knitted story lines, requires a significant amount of concentration. Long sequences flick back and forth between the two characters so quickly, only speaking one or two lines each, that the audience is left feeling a little dazed at the intense amount of dramatic information being received.

There is a good balance between serious grit, a true testament to the fresh company’s name, ‘Gritty Theatre’, and risqué comedy. Its timing is rigorous, the humour explicit and overall message a very ‘real’ and pertinent one, but certainly a highly entertaining piece and without doubt worth a watch.

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Ellie Bartram

at 17:07 on 19th Aug 2016

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‘Chapel Street’, an engaging narrative exposing the darker elements of life for 'Broken Britain'’s young generation, follows the story of how the lives of Kirsty (Jessica Melia) and Joe (Christopher Round) intertwine after a drunken night out.

The night is relived as Kirsty and Joe re-enact the order of events through individual monologues which are played off against each other on stage. As one is speaking, the other is held in a freeze frame as the narrative jumps swiftly between the two perspectives. Ian Robert Moule skilfully directs this and the entire performance flows effortlessly: there are hilarious cross-overs between the monologues yet also many moments in which Moule parallels the narratives in order to heighten the differences between the two characters and the lack of understanding that exists between them.

The acting is convincing at all times: Jessica Melia and Christopher Round remain staunchly in character throughout and consistently hold themselves well. This is particularly impressive as they freeze at close proximity to the faces of audience members and retain direct eye contact with their chosen targets throughout. At one point, an audience member from the front row is forced on stage to receive body shots. Kirsty (Jessica Melia) and Joe (Christopher Round) do an impressive job of keeping the audience transfixed and amused. Adult humour and sexual jokes are persistently thrown into the faces of audience members – at points rather literally.

However, what lies beyond this expression of humour in ‘Chapel Street’ is Gritty Theatre’s confrontation of darker issues: director Ian Robert Moule delivers a deeper message about ‘good times gone bad’ which is extremely well executed. His characters, Kirsty and Joe, pursue a mentality founded on the premise that ‘for now its time to go out’: Friday night offers them a form of temporary escapism from harsher realities.

Luke Barnes’ writing displays tremendous talent and evolves into a poignant performance on the stage. The ability of Jessica Melia and Christopher Round to bring the script to life is remarkable; their emotionally charged performances establish a bond between the actors and audience that stays with you long after the show.

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