EFR - Reviews of Auditions

Auditions

Sat 6th – Sat 13th August 2016

reviews

Lizzie Buckman

at 11:38 on 10th Aug 2016

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‘Auditions’ at the Cowgateshead theatre is a reminder that budget and venue hold no bearing whatsoever over the quality of the work you are able to produce; the team manage to take a concept which could have slipped into in-jokes and pretention, and make a show bubbling with potential and moments of pure brilliance.

‘Auditions’ is a play at the Fringe about a play at the Fringe about auditions. It is, as stated by Tyler Rainford’s character Mark, “about as meta as it can get.” The play follows Mark’s struggle to get a play to the Edinburgh Fringe. The audience is taken through a series of dire auditions, a flashback featuring a recorder and a flashforward until the opening night finally arrives. Mark needs a three star review if he is to get into RADA, and luckily this is easily achieved. Hamish Clayton’s writing is snappy and smart, the first thirty minutes in particular fly by in a flurry of laughter, synchronised dances and almost sadistic laughter at the expense of the characters pain. The only time the flow stalls is during the re-enactment of the play within a play.

The problem with reproducing a play that is supposed to be worthy of a one star review is that it is very difficult to make it good. The pace is dragged down slightly and some genuinely funny moments are sadly lost. The actors carry it well, Rainford’s facial contortions ached with anguish providing particular enjoyment, alongside Anna Galbraith’s flustered muttering and fidgeting, not to mention a quietly ironic prop in the form of a textbook on EU law. This is a strong cast in general, though special mention has to go to Sam Reitsbergen, whose rendition of Macbeth as ‘Bill Schpears’ is a stroke of comedy genius, and Carrie Gaunt as the ex-girlfriend who is at once hilarious and petrifying.

This is a venue with limitations. There is no stage lighting rigged, but rather than disguise this ‘Auditions’ somehow use it to craft another joke by performing under fluorescents, with an on stage lighting operator periodically squeezing straight through the audience flicking the light switch off for ‘blackouts’.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable show and would be even stronger if only the structure and pace of the first half had been maintained throughout. A talented cast work with the space in glorious self-awareness, cracking jokes that are smart and timed to perfection. Whilst ‘Auditions’ cannot always be classed as completely slick or professional, its frenetic joy rippled through the audience and has the potential to be truly fantastic, a dark horse of Free Fringe this is a show well worth a watch.

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Frances Ball

at 16:09 on 10th Aug 2016

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In this lively, energetic show, Tyler Rainford as the beleaguered director Mark informs his colleague that he needs three stars for the show he will be putting on at the Edinburgh Fringe in order to go to RADA. That is the kind of production that this is – brilliantly self referential, saying that it breaks the fourth wall is like informing you that the Pope happens to be Catholic. It is a show about putting on a show: metatheatrical to the extreme. But when you put a group of student thespians on stage and tell them to perform the best stereotypes of the drama world, then you get comedy gold.

Sam Reitbergen holds the audience in stitches through every appearance as the excessively dramatic next Laurence Olivier, and each cast member carries their caricature well, particularly Rainford’s despairing director. It feels slightly overdone occasionally, and there are some gags that would actually be funnier if the parody was more subtle. This is a minor gripe, however, in a show that is consistently funny and hugely enjoyable.

It is clear that the cast and crew know their audience well, picking up on aspects of the Fringe and theatre-going that everyone in the crowd recognises. Henry Fell, brilliantly, is the tech member of the crew and is also on stage throughout, deadpan and silent. The fact that he makes the audience laugh without a word is testament to both his awareness of comic timing and the fact that the crowd is enjoying the show as a whole.

The first half of the show, the audition process itself, is excellent. Each caricature is well performed and develops nicely as the scenes unfold, setting up the plot. The second half is slower, but nonetheless very funny, perhaps because the audience is by then fully behind the humour of the show. There is a bizarre chicken dance to emphasise the rush and madness of putting on a Fringe show, which could be lost without much heartbreak, but besides that it’s a fun, entertaining production. By the end, every single character can elicit a laugh by their sheer presence on stage, or their facial expression.

It is a ridiculous show, but it gives you exactly what you want from it. Don't worry Mark, this reviewer picked up on the guilt trip and loved the show – you are going to RADA.

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