EFR - Reviews of Sympathy for the Devil

Sympathy for the Devil

Mon 6th – Sat 11th August 2018

reviews

Ed Strang

at 09:34 on 8th Aug 2018

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This catchily-titled production is a classic Fringe-friendly show. Set in a house in New York, it displays all the familiar tropes of accessible amateur theatre: American accents, heroin abuse, violence, and loads of really really super cool one liners.

The show was a producer’s dream, allowing the actors to display their versatile credentials while also not being too challenging a production. That is exactly what the audience receive: a competent play that never really asks much of the audience. The actors are all talented despite their often questionable accents, and the production is slick. The two lead roles, Henry and Mia, displayed commendable empathy while portraying heroin addicts, but the production lacked any edge of real note at all. There were a few nice touches: when the actors remained on stage while the audience left the venue it really helped to make the finale feel haunting. The music was also well-chosen and added to the sense of foreboding that prevailed throughout.

But 'Sympathy for the Devil' lacked any real stand-out qualities. All roles were performed admirably, and nothing went wrong – the sign of a well-rehearsed show. The story line was a bit predictable, although it was utterly baffling towards the end, which let down the show; the final third of the plot ruined an otherwise believable play that prides itself on gritty reality. ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ was a fine production, a friendly, accessible, and inoffensive Fringe staple. But if you wish to be intellectually stimulated or challenged in some capacity, then you’d best look somewhere else.

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Molly Stock-Duerdoth

at 09:42 on 8th Aug 2018

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Student theatre troop Lancaster Offshoots’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ works elements of the Rolling Stones song into an intriguing play about gangsters in 1970s Brooklyn. Heroin-addicted couple Mia and Henry, controlled by Henry’s brother Vincent, are employed by a gang to guard a blindfolded man tied to a chair for two days. Soon, their uneasiness and curiosity lead them to unmask him, at which point he gains control of the situation even from his captive position and begins manipulating their behaviour.

Billed as a psychological thriller, the play certainly has some disturbing elements. Christian Fuchs is excellent as the nameless man in the chair, portraying both the nervous broker he initially pretends to be and the collected, relaxed puppeteer he is revealed as with impressive conviction. However, the production falls a little short of thriller. There is real suspense as Mia and Henry grow increasingly anxious over who or what is concealed by the bag, the faceless captive positioned brazenly at the centre of the stage and harsh lights adding to the unease. But this tension is broken before it has properly developed when the bag is lifted around only 10 minutes in. While the key themes of dependency and desperation escalate gradually and neatly, some of the events seems random or unnecessary; a report of sexual assault is included for no explicable reason, and the dialogue often turns in discordant directions. There are some believability issues, too; the Brooklyn accents are inconsistent and overall difficult to believe, and the couple are dressed more as gap year students than destitute addiction sufferers.

The final twists and revelations are startling and tightly performed, but not everything is properly expounded and some elements remain a little convoluted. The number of issues touched upon in such a short piece – the psychology of co-dependent relationships, the dynamics of Italian gangs, the correct way to deal with drug addiction – mean that none are explored with particular depth or insight. Nevertheless, there are some excellent performances here; it is enjoyable for the mystery and intrigue, but some simplification is required for it to become genuinely thrilling.

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