Glitter & Tears

Fri 7th – Sat 22nd August 2015

reviews

Alannah Jones

at 10:17 on 15th Aug 2015

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New writing at the fringe is always something of a gamble. There’s the chance you might see something sensational; you are perhaps more likely to end up trapped in a theatre with a train wreck of a play so terrible you lose faith in the very concept of theatre. Glitter and Tears by Serafina Cusack was neither; it fell somewhere comfortably in the middle. It was not boring, nor was it revolutionary.

The concept of the play has more or less been done before by Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’; a dystopian future in which our society’s penchant for televised singing competitions and talent shows has become a sinister and all-consuming power, driven by the hunger for views and ratings to any ends. The play follows four contestants through the final stages of TV talent show ‘Britain Can Sing’, and we the audience are made to feel all the more conspicuous of our own voyeurism, encouraged to applaud the performances and intrude upon their private moments.

Cusack’s script contains plenty of clichés and jokes that didn’t quite land, and deals a little heavy-handedly with mental health. That said the play is still coherent and intriguing, painting a garish yet desolate picture of the future of the soulless entertainment industry.

The acting was strong, for the most part. Simon Bradshaw gave a stand-out performance as the Pete Docherty-esque Felix Furlong. Cusack herself plays Leto Lavender (a little self-indulgently perhaps) and has an absolutely beautiful singing voice. All five actors gave engaging, if a little melodramatic performances, all cleverly doubling up at times as the tropes of talent show judges. These are clearly five very talented and versatile actors and singers.

This is a cutting satire of the entertainment industry, portraying an ominous future in which contestants are exploited by the faceless conglomerate TV network, and by extension the audience at home. Think Britain’s Got Talent meets The Hunger Games. Appetite Theatre have succeeded in creating a play that does that all-important thing that sits at the very heart of contemporary theatre: making the audience question themselves. They bring to life an intriguing if unpolished concept, with a bit of evocative physical theatre and genuine musical talent thrown into the mix.

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Polly Jacobs

at 16:52 on 15th Aug 2015

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Our TV screens are clogged by talent shows and competitions, by sickening characters jostling for public recognition, and with the fame and fortune of the new Promised Land. Serafina Cusack’s Glitter and Tears is a satire on this very subject.

Cusack, playing Leto Lavender, was also the most believable member of the cast. Otherwise, the acting felt wooden and one-dimensional. Characters seemed to obey the stereotypes of the genre and all seemed fairly predictable.

Events within the plot seemed to escalate too quickly: there was not enough time to understand the characters before they were throwing themselves at one another and professing undying love, leaving the audience in a state of bemused confusion as they were confronted with unending clichés exchanged between apparent strangers. Scenes were too short, and you were never able to develop any feelings towards characters before they were wrenched offstage via an occasionally clumsy set change. This gave the performance a turbulent and fractured quality.

The plot moved from the dull region of reality television to the implausible realms of a murder conspiracy that seemed to take the story from believable to incredible. Coupled with unicolour costumes and alliterative names, Glitter and Tears became a nightmarish Cluedo, but without the complexity.

The costumes were also erratic. Ben Boskovic donned a fairly impressive studded mismatched two-piece suit as Vincent Verona, Cusack a pink top and skirt overlaid with a plastic raincoat and the other characters seemed to have found whatever dark clothing could be scrambled together backstage. There seemed little reason behind this eclecticism and it created a disjointed and unprofessional aesthetic. For clarity, it would have been far more helpful had characters adopted a change of costume to discern themselves between the time spent playing the contestants and other moments when roles of the judges were assumed. This did become clearer with time, but could have been made more immediately obvious.

The songs in the performance were original and were the most engaging writing in the piece. Those sung by the males in particular were accurately self-obsessed, and well delivered with pouty arrogance onstage. In general, the music was well performed and this group are clearly proficient singers.

Cusack’s is an admirable attempt overall, and the fact that this is new writing should not be ignored. The premise of the play could be a popular one but at this stage in its early development, Glitter and Tears fails to deliver.

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