“the writing is fresh and clever, and all the performers do a fabulous job at highlighting the subtleties of their characters”
Student written plays are crucial for keeping DST thriving and meeting room 7 is the epitome of talent for both the cast and creative team. The play provides introspection, humour and curiosity in equal measure, much recognition must be given to the thought-provoking writing (by Scout Pemberton) for allowing the audience to consider their own reality, and to question what we define as a good person. The directors (Maria Ezaro and Neve Kidson, assisted by Alica Taylor) do an effortless job at engaging with a range of complex emotions, which are explored in intricate and abstract ways. The most impressive quality of this production is its ability to represent relatable emotions through minimal yet effective staging and movement, which allows the audience to almost feel like they are in a therapy session, there was almost an immersive aspect to the show, which came as a lovely surprise.
As I entered Alington house, the chief (Nick Lemieux) was already in character, engaging with the audience through frantic and comical interactions, the directorial choice to set the tone before the show was very appreciated and added something special to the audiences experience. Throughout the show, lighting was a crucial aspect of reflecting the power dynamic between the voice (Danny Haynes) and the other characters, the use of flashing white lights to a sudden darkness during the entrance of the voice, provided an incredible illusion of creating an alternative space, which was especially impressive in a setting as intimate as Alington house. Massive credit must be given to the production manager (Carrie Cheung, assisted by Willow Raynor) who did a great job at illuminating the key aspects of the play, whilst not distracting from the often-emotive small cast interactions, where the lighting was appropriately more subtle. Likewise, the utilisation of props felt intentional, I particularly enjoyed the function of the buffet table, which all actors responded to in an innovative way, which provided a fascinating representation of the character diversity, yet it acted as the central prop which really grounded the production. The set designer (Steph Roarty) did a great job at creating a space reminiscent of a group therapy session, whereby the seven chairs were an integral part of each character’s journey. It was evident that a lot of attention had been paid to the link between each character and their staging, and it aided the overall vision of the show.
Without doubt the casting was brilliant, every actor on that stage deeply understood their role, and every character was presented in a distinct and creative way. The chemistry of the cast was evident, each time one actor went centre stage, the reactions of the other cast members were vibrant and diverse. There were many standout performances, which lends to the general strength of the script, as each character even those initially unlikeable, were explored in a variety of nuanced ways, which led the audience to resonate with each character at different times. The whole show felt incredibly honest and realistic, at times, watching it I had wished there was more emphasis on the quiet moments of vulnerability, rather than exploring the overt emotive reactions seen in the discussions with the voice, it could have benefitted from more naturalistic direction, although on the whole the bigger outbursts were extremely fitting. The contrasting characters within this play were extremely entertaining to watch, particularly the relationship between Doe (Ellen Olley) and Asher (Jonny Gutteridge) who both provided stellar performances. Olley’s interpretation of Doe was super fun to watch, the carefree persona which riled up every other character was a great touch and the moments of humour, especially through their sarcastic facial expressions really added a positivity to the production. While, Gutteridge had a much angrier role he also become one of my favourites to watch, the commitment to his character and exaggerated physical reactions should be commended.
Many of my favourite scenes occurred between Jade (Scarlett Clarke) and Pixie (Alvi Lindborg-Koh) whereby their polar opposite characters often found moments of similarity and friendship, both girls provided a range of diverse facial and vocal expressions making them even more relatable, and both were a joy to watch. Likewsie, I found myself laughing at the pompous performance provided by Sterling (Ollie Spink), who actually showed a great range of depth throughout the show, whilst maintaining comedic relief. The role of Cass (Alexandra Tyler) was played beautifully, and in the end, I sympathised with her character the most, which highlights her great portrayal of the role.
Meeting room 7 is one to watch, the writing is fresh and clever, and all the performers do a fabulous job at highlighting the subtleties of their characters. Overall, it is an accomplished production, with nuanced directing and a strong message of acceptance.
By Niamh Williams
Photo Credits: First Theatre Company