WORCS. DRAMA FESTIVAL 2016
‘Rocks Off’ by Brenda Read-
Adjudicated by Mike Kaiser of Goda
The group is fortunate to have the writer within their own midst. Brenda Read-
Here we have a scurrilous and highly far-
There was an angled small rostrum stage on the left for the penguins to rest on their rocks, which seemed to be on quick inspection when I was passing by later, partly genuine smaller ones and some artificial larger ones to be brought in by the nesting penguin. The name given in the programme was Geoff Matthews so he is to be congratulated on a realistic product which was easy enough for the actors to handle. I thought about whether they could have been arranged on the floor itself for even greater simplicity but was glad that you had provided a raised stage because it suggested a divide between the actors and the adjudicator and also provided moments of physical humour when Chardonnay hopped on and off and waddled away.
The adjudicator’s desk was then angled across the right hand side of the stage with an excellent effect of a couple of tipping theatre seats behind the desk. Well done indeed on that detail. On either side of the double desk were places where the voices or spirits could perch close to him and slightly higher, able to offer advice or criticism.
The costume was well chosen and the three of them were connected by the colour scheme of electric blue silken cloth items, a cravat for him, a hair ribbon for Voice 1 and a tie for Voice 2. The two voices were a basic black beneath those splashes of colour and the adjudicator made a strong impact with his white DJ. The penguins looked comic but serious in the way that real penguins do in their tail coats over white bibs, black trousers and socks.
The lighting enhanced the movement of the play by having each area in a pool of light with the ability to focus the audience attention from one to the other when required, although sometimes, of course, the areas were in action at the same time and overlapping. The music suggested was the Penguin Café Orchestra or Sinfonia Antarctica and although I am not sure whether either of them was what you used, the opening music was atmospheric enough.
The opening picture was both intriguing and amusing as the intense and flowery gestures of the adjudicator were recognisable. The early exchanges of the voices established the basic conceit that here we had two aspects of his mind that were at odds with each other and that we could listen in on his inner thoughts raging back and forth while he maintained an elegant exterior. The placing of the voices was rather like the good and bad spirits which tempt the protagonist in medieval morality plays.
In order for the picture not to remain too static, the voices broke away from the desk and sometimes met in front of it to battle out their different views. Voice 1 also was more likely to come and sit in front of the stage watching the action intently before going back to his shoulder. The exchanges between the two were reasonably well charged with energy to make the text interesting. One area, though, where voice 2 especially could go further in raising the tempo is in quoting the words that are being written as the action on stage unfolds. If it could be ‘quoted’ more heavily, giving it real weight and fluency and even pomposity, then we could see it for what it is – a load of tosh.
Similarly, when the letter was delivered, there could have been more made of the build-
I have to say that it was a disconcerting experience to be writing about the acting of Muriel and Chardonnay just as V2 is quoting the pompous comments that are being written on stage. It was a distortion of reality which I suppose is part of the aim of the piece – to draw attention to the set phrases and euphemisms that can be used to describe really rather ordinary performances.
On the other side of the stage, the slow-
The realisation that the letter with indecent proposals has actually come from one of the people on stage caused V2 to project and accelerate in indignation and this was matched on stage by increasing anger between the penguins. The squeaks of Muriel and Chardonnay finally forced the Adjudicator into the forefront for his outburst and that was a well-
Voice 1 ( Jane Hughes )
She was often the go-
Voice 2 ( Alan Wollaston )
Despite the buzzing around of Voice 1, this was the more bullish of the two voices. He had a sardonic, throwaway kind of humour that seemed more carefree than Voice 1 who was a great worrier. One aspect of the performance that could have been pushed a little further was the elevation of the language when the remarks being written were being quoted. It could be more flowing in quoting the pretentious remarks being written, more flowery. Do not underestimate the pomposity of those remarks which form a comic contrast with what we actually see happening on the stage to the left. You finally did reach a good volume when losing your temper so you do have to keep something in reserve for that.
Chardonnay ( Lianne Abel )
She began as the more nervous of the two, screwing her eyes up and counting down interminably before their action started. There was a nicely judged transition from this very gauche start and the increase of self-
Muriel ( Pam Jell )
From the beginning, she was more careful and deliberate in speech, a little reminiscent of the Oliver Hardy role to Stan Laurel. She picked out each word in the accusation and was like the senior partner in the relationship. You could afford to loosen up the flow a little sooner than you did and move into a more natural rhythm of speech. However, once the issues between you and the suspicions as to what was really happening became hard facts to the audience, there was an acceleration of pace which added to the humour.
Adjudicator ( Geoff Guy )
You looked tremendous with that heroic actor-
The play was well placed at the very end of the festival, just before the awards ceremony, to remind us of one of the main functions of drama, which is to entertain. It was an inward look at what we’re all doing and hopefully would remove any of the pretentiousness that happens when people take themselves a little too seriously. The humour was a gentle one which was aided by some good teamwork between the two voices on one side of the stage and the two penguins on the other. What might have become too static a picture was enlivened by some variations of position, especially by the voices. The oddity of the subject matter was a source of humour in itself and a sign of the quirky nature of the play. The parallels with human activity are made clear by the temptations of the letter.
I’m not sure whether to refer first to Darwin or to Freud in my deeper analysis of . . .
So actually I won’t. Just to say thank you for a most entertaining contribution.
Mike Kaiser GODA