Labyrinth

Mon 10th – Sat 15th August 2015

reviews

Abigail Smith

at 09:31 on 12th Aug 2015

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This student show was a brilliant attempt at capturing the gritty underworld of Hollywood, with drugs, romance, and some Roman myth thrown in for good measure. Sadly, these features just didn't pay off, leaving the show to fall flat despite the cast's best efforts.

The acting is certainly worthy of mention, especially for such a young cast. From the steely and ruthless Midas (Sam Courtiour) to the loveable and troubled Oscar (Alex Britt), the performances were energetic and engaging. Of particular note is Libby Priestman, who played the wonderfully bitchy wardrobe mistress Madge, complete with fat jokes and Janice laugh, and James Hill, who briefly captured the audience’s hearts as a shy casting director in a fetching sweater vest. One particularly nice cast decision was having Lydia Harper play both veteran Evelyn and ruthless newbie Amy-Jean; it was a chilling comment on the cyclical nature of Hollywood, replacing the old with a newer model, each indistinguishable from the other. My only complaint would be the accents; I couldn’t for the life of me work out what state we were in (and at some points I wasn’t even sure we were in America).

It was a shame then, that the actors have themselves so little to work with; their self-devised show simply did their talents no favours. The moments of physical theatre could have worked if they were more consistent; instead, they felt like last minute additions, sometimes a full dance and sometimes just out of synch hand movements. These under-formed sections made the show feel highly disjointed, without any distinctive style to tie the show together. This was complicated even further by Madge’s song; she sung it well, but I was utterly baffled as to why such a pantomime-esque moment was included.

This was exacerbated by the lighting and sound. The soundtrack played relentlessly throughout the performance, flicking between Frank Sinatra, a strange soft rock song, and the kind of false-tension music you hear in the queue for roller-coasters. It wasn’t effective, and only served to distract from the actors on stage. It was also unfortunate that the actors spent much of their stage-time hidden in shadows.

That said, the plot was an interesting one, and the concept highly imaginative; the sleazy underworld of Hollywood set a tone of lost glamour, and the interweaving of myth was cleverly done, providing a colourful array of characters (leaving out the train-conductor Jessie, whose role was very unclear). The conclusion, however, was just too melodramatic for my liking, and morphed from a cigarette-hazed drama into a drug-addled episode of Eastenders.

Watching Labyrinth, the lack of cohesion was what struck me the most. Romantic clichés were hammed in alongside jazz dance numbers, and the framing device, whereby the audience were led on a tour around the studios, didn’t feel like it was relevant, nor did it join up the scenes very neatly. That said, the cast are to be commended for their performances, which were all of a very high standard. The show was one full of bold choices and directorial decisions, but sadly only a few of these pulled off.

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Izzie Fernandes

at 10:31 on 12th Aug 2015

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The programme that were handed upon arrival to the snazzy Space theatre studio sent my expectations in a vastly wrong direction. I entered anticipating a modern Greek tragedy due to the claim that this piece had been inspired by the ancient Greek myths of Orpheus and Euridyce. What I missed was the line (definitely in a too smaller font) that ‘they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cent for your soul’.

The concept of the plot took the audience on a tour around Labyrinth studios with Jesse (Matthew Tyson), playing an intense and at times slimily presented Alabamian tour guide. This villainous performance, although at times overreaching made effective use of the thrust stage space and this was a solid basis for the whistle stop tour around Hollywood’s poisonous Labyrinth of drained moral integrity, drug abuse, alcoholism and the poisoned chalice of success.

This was the Hollywood industry of the 1960s and the blind ambition which the cast evoked almost reflected the ambitious content with which they themselves grappled. The characterization was, on the whole, strong although some slips in accent made the link between place (seemingly Hollywood) and intonation (apparently New York) slightly discordant. This said, though the accents were by no means flawless, the range and relationships between characters in the studio were cleverly observed and on the whole believable.

Before the plot dissolved into tears, drugs, dancing and a melodramatic murder, the intense exchange of love, passion and addition between two thespian lovies, Evelyn and Oscar reflected a dark, somewhat contrived and melodramatic Richard Curtis film. Theatrically, this show was well formulated since Lydia Harper’s doubling as Evelyn and the ghost of her past, the youthful Amy Jane was thought provoking. Whilst the bouncing naivety of Amy Jane was more effectively presented by Harper than the supposedly desperate and vulnerable Evelyn, the transition from old to new was touching.

An obliging clerk, a 60s version of Zac Efron, a gold grabbing aptly named Midas, and a stale actress ousted by this complex network, was heightened by the pervasive and ever intensifying background jazz and original and precisely choreographed physical theatre. Amidst the satanic poison, jabbing of pens and harsh smacking of tables portrayed particularly well by the violent and menacing Midas (Sam Courtiour), there were touches of humor. Libby Priestman made a good crack at this and with a hunched back, large glasses and a bold Janice-esque accent (Oh My God it’s Chandler Bing), she embraced the role of a stereotypical dress maker yet maintained enough focus to bring a jealous and energised performance invoking judgment and malice.

The naïve aspirational girl meets the washed-up addict in what presents a world where striving for perfection only results in ruin. The cast coped well with these severe issues and as demonstrated by the deliberately overt presence of red props and clothing, this was a display of desperation, danger and desire which is certainly worth a watch.

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