Oil!

Fri 4th – Sat 12th August 2017

reviews

Charlotte Lock

at 00:28 on 8th Aug 2017

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‘Oil!’, by The Superhero Club, opens on a dinner party among a group of assorted students who are soon to graduate, and tackles the upcoming concerns of what to do as ex-students. The five characters, despite having different interests, backgrounds and tastes, have an intriguing relationship. One that can only be understood as having been established throughout years of joint experiences which are revealed as the group recount both amusing and disturbing anecdotes.

The premise of the show is that, upon striking oil in the basement, the group must decide who among them is most in need of the potential profits. This proves an interesting device in the plot as it makes the audience question whether they, like the characters in the performance, would strongly advocate for themselves in a distinctly self-interested manner - an issue which is particularly relevant given rising student debt. Somewhat cliché arguments and a laughable chase scene ensues, with the potential for serious topics to be addressed more directly unfortunately being missed. However, the show was effective as a satire, even if further exploration is desired.

Despite being a comedy, the show does well to explore various social issues and concerns, from feminism to politics. In identifying certain characters leaning towards Conservatism, or to socialism, the show identifies stereotypes and makes observant comments, many of which will resonate with students. A particular focus was on differences in wealth and as such, the divisive nature of personal backgrounds, relating to schools attended and the quantity of money available. This group of Bristol students do well to demonstrate the ability for relationships to overcome innumerable differences. Despite this, more could arguably have been done to refine the production, with the performances lacking an element of credibility, which arguably could have been improved if the actors further relaxed into their roles and slowed the pace of the show.

Certain elements sadly appeared to be absent from the production, including lighting changes and music, which could have proved useful in establishing tone. However, more positively, the cast, particularly, Arthur Godden and Alessandro Ford, broke the fourth wall by not merely conversing with audience members, but integrating themselves. At certain points they took a seat and became an observer of the production in an interesting directorial decision. The actors had much potential, each having an admirable level of character development, to such an extent that the audience could surely liken them and their experiences to people in their own lives. However, a more in-depth exploration of their characters’ emotions would not have gone amiss. Ultimately, this piece of new writing is promising, leaving the audience curious to see a reunion of this group a few years down the line, in anticipation of discovering how the characters and the actors themselves have advanced.

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Ela Portnoy

at 09:51 on 8th Aug 2017

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Written and performed by the Superhero Club, ‘Oil!’ is an hilarious play that rips into people’s pretentions. A story about five relatable caricatures of people, ‘Oil!’ perfectly satirises a world that is familiar to anyone who has been to university, and still funny for anyone who hasn’t.

The comedy is fresh and on point. We begin with Felix (Arthur Gotten), a Buddhist, declaring “I’ve developed my inner peace this year – I’ve collected a bee colony in my room” in perfect deadpan. The script picks out the kind of annoying and funny things about people that you can’t always put your finger on, and the actors are on the same wavelength as the writing. Their comic timing and delivery is spot on and brings out people’s habits, attitudes and group dynamics with brilliantly sarcastic humour.

At times, though, it seemed like the actors were delivering lines ironically even if their characters would have believed what they were saying. It would be funnier if the characters’ feelings were genuine and they reacted seriously to ridiculous situations. Still, the piece is undoubtedly funny. The way the performers engaged with the audience was brilliant. They explore the grey areas between public and stage and between reality and illusion, and this resulted in some wonderful moments of humour. The more they play around with this, the better the piece will be. There is a lot of scope for improvisation in this show, especially when the cast played on the audience’s reaction to add new jokes, or leave strands that didn’t work.

One thing that bothered me was the column downstage which sometimes blocked the action. I liked the parts in which they interacted with it, like when Oscar (Alessandro Font) used it to act out a pole dancing routine. As with the audience participation, the cast could continue to play with the space and the set and this would push the comedy further. The performers are clearly skilled comedians, but they could really test the limits of this show and inject it with new madness. They all have the instinct that makes sketch comedy good: they know when and how to engage with the audience, they know what’s funny and they have the delivery on point. The more they hone these skills, the better they will become, and this will simply happen with time. I would be interested to see what this performance will look like by the end of its run. One thing I would say, however, is that the comedy sometimes relies on student ‘in-jokes’. There were some references that I found funny, but that might be lost on a different audience. With slightly more accessible humour, this play will be a fresh and universal hit. All in all, Oil! is an innovative, well-written piece of satire.

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