“every member of the audience was incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to watch”
This showcase, exhibiting theatrical talent amongst the finalists of Durham Student Theatre, was inarguably a spectacular success. The well-chosen selection of pieces varied from chilling monologues to endearing comedic duets, presenting the performers’ ability to wonderfully present a stylistic range of material. Even as the tone of the pieces fluctuated, the organisation of the set list and direction from Jennifer Lafferty shone through to make a cohesive and well-balanced show.
Opening the show with the comedic musical duet We’re Just Friends, Florence Lunnon and Samuel Kingsley Jones charmed the audience with their incredible vocals in their captivating performance and must be commended for their hilariously endearing chemistry. With beautifully executed harmonies and dynamic blocking, they hooked the audience with this excellent opening. Another standout group performance was that of Maddie Clarke and Tansy Adam performing Peep, by Jodi Grey. The two actors played off one another in a seemingly effortless and natural manner, creating a comical setting that had the audience in stitches. Finally, an additional scene with particularly witty character dynamics was that executed by Amy Davis and Raphael Kris: where they brilliantly captured the awkwardness between their characters in a delightfully tense performance in their rendition Sex with a Stranger, by Stefan Golaszewski.
The individual performances in the show were equally engaging, with standout comedic monologues from Alexander Bittar and Tansy Adam as they performed monologues from Goodbye Charles, and Love and Money. Both actors approached their material with incredible comedic timing, captivating the audience with their wonderful stage presence. Bittar’s performance was especially well-timed. While he took to the stage alone, his judgemental glances and frantic explanations directed to the imagined other two individuals in the scene with him had the crowd cackling throughout the monologue, making it feel as though we were truly watching a ridiculously funny interaction between an oblivious ex shamelessly intruding on a date. In a similar manner, Adam also enthralled the audience with her excellently unhinged characterisation. Her energy onstage was infectious, and the expressiveness of her performance was thoroughly enjoyable to watch – capturing the sheer chaos of her monologue with remarkable skill.
Though this piece was a song rather than a monologue, another performance that can’t go overlooked was Davis’ unbelievably impressive performance of They Don’t Let You in the Opera, by Kelli O’Hara. Her vocal agility stunned the audience, and the piece gave her the opportunity to showcase her beautiful operatic voice in an absurdly funny manner. Somehow managing to achieve incredible vocal clarity while simultaneously acting out giving birth and having contractions, Davis had the audience in hysterics throughout this terrific act.
While the showcase was brilliant overall, some moments could have been improved with microphones; especially in more tender and intimate moments where the performers were quieter and therefore more difficult to hear. Additionally, although the minimalism of the set felt very sleek and worked for the majority of the scenes and songs, certain interactions would have been more grounded and more deliberate with more set to work with, as some of the moments that were exclusively performed standing appeared less controlled and focused.
Despite this, the actors still demonstrated their incredible skill with their command of the stage – another striking moment of such control being Lunnon’s chilling delivery of Pilgrims, by Elinor Cook. Her well calculated presentation of this monologue was deeply unsettling and left the audience stunned by her incredible performance. The selection of this monologue was another example of the incredible range and contrast provided by the material selected, as each actor was able to exhibit their ability to capture a range of emotions in an immersive and convincing manner. Maddie Clark and Raphael Kris had this same effect in their monologues. Clark had a wonderful natural quality to her acting, creating an intimacy with the audience that made her performances superbly impactful. Her tasteful balance between moments of restraint and more fiery moments of expression created a exquisite duality in her performances. Kris, too, captured these moments well, with an impressive ability to have the audience hanging onto his every word in his controlled stillness during his emotionally charged scenes.
Closing the show, the setlist made a return to musical theatre with an incredible performance of Come Back, from Dogfight, by Jones. Bringing the audience to tears with his heart-breaking interpretation of this song, Jones’ vocal control was without fault. The clarity in his voice throughout the final distressed repetitions of “I don’t know,” and, “come back,” made the performance exceedingly impactful, and his exceptional range and equally impressive emotional control in this beautiful performance was the perfect gut-wrenching end to this showcase.
The consistently remarkable level of performance made for an unquestionably moving show, and the coherent nature of the showcase made it an absolute pleasure to watch. Each member of the cast was an outstanding performer, and the fluidity and quality of the showcase was of an undeniably high standard, to which every member of the audience was incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to watch.
By Alexandra Juliet Tyler
Photo Credits: Durham Student Theatre