Natasha Ali enjoys Durham University Classical Theatre’s Classical Acting Showcase.
I must admit, I really had no idea what I was expecting walking into Hatfield College’s Birley Room. I love showcases. And monologues. I love watching snippets of stories get put together to make a new narrative, and seeing what one actor can do on stage. But my knowledge of classical theatre is very limited so I can’t really say I was the ‘target audience’ for the night.
Still, the set up was easy enough to understand. Three judges to judge, eight actors to act and two producers to keep the night running smoothly. The performances ran one right after the other before a first and second place were awarded by the panel. A nice idea. Plus, all the actors received written feedback which is always helpful.
Thalia Agoglossaskis kicked off the evening as Lady Macbeth. While she had some very good emotional moments of fear and anxiety, I don’t think she grasped the true level of insanity her character was supposed to be experiencing. A more light-hearted piece, maybe from a Shakespeare comedy rather than a tragedy, might have suited the actress much better.
Ned Vessey came next with a monologue from Regeneration. He had some nice pauses and I felt the horror in his voice grow throughout but staging was a bit of an issue. Staying sat in a chair isn’t a bad thing, but you have to create some kind of movement throughout. Otherwise it can become slightly tedious to watch.
Adela Herandez Derbyshire fitted her character, Phoebe from As You Like It, pretty perfectly. She had great comedic timing, pulling a few laughs from the audience and maintained a snarky attitude throughout. It also added some variety to the evening which is never a bad thing.
Then came one of two Hamlet pieces. Ben Willows delivered Shakespeare’s dialogue very well, with some good emotional shifts and expressions. You can really tell with Shakespeare when an actor understands what they’re saying. And Willows definitely did.
Giorgia Laird, the overall winner of the evening, entered with a monologue from Romeo and Juliet. I can see why the judges chose her; her staging was great, and she used the very limited space of the Birley Room well. She also got the naivety and school-girl excitement of Juliet down perfectly and the way she powered through Shakespeare’s dialogue was impressive to watch.
John Broadhead kind of blew me away. He was in character the moment he got on the stage. I can’t say I was that excited for a second Hamlet monologue but what he did with it was pretty incredible. With such a short space of time to work with, it’s hard to get the audience invested but I felt myself leaning in to watch him closer. The ups and downs in emotion and delivery of lines were great and he became a version of Hamlet only he could perform. I really love it when actors do something different with an overused character and Broadhead did not disappoint.
Isobel Flower chose a piece from Saint Joan. Like Vessey’s piece, it was nice to have another non-Shakespeare piece. She did well, with good facial expressions and tone. I just wish her piece was longer, because it would have let her showcase her talent a bit more.
The final performance of the evening came from Aaron Rozanski. And I can definitely see why they saved him till last. To be honest, I’m not sure if Shakespeare would have cheered or rolled in his grave. All I can say is Rozanski was very entertaining to watch and though I tried so hard not to let him make me laugh, I caved within five seconds of his portrayal of Parolles from All’s Well that Ends Well.
So overall, I had a good time. Honestly, DST needs to do things like this more often. Getting adults already in the industry to watch students is the best way to get your foot in the door. But I think this could have been marketed much better than it was. And it would have been nice to have the actors introducing the monologues and saying why they chose them instead of the producers slotting in before every performance to explain. Still, I’m glad I went, if only to feel more comfortable with classical acting in general and see how it all fits into DST.