Alex Hart appreciates the skilled performances and fresh talent of DST’s Freshers Showcase, ‘Unheard Voices’, while wishing for a greater sense of coherence and purpose for the production as a whole.
From the depths of lockdown, the homes of many, and the shows of pre-corona bliss comes the creative collection of solos and monologues, ‘Unheard Voices’. The Freshers Showcase sees twenty individuals take to the screen in a parade of talent, each performing to their unseen audience in the best way they know how. While the sound quality may need adjusting, the selection of performances does not, each bringing an element of surprise, be it large or small, to your laptop screen.
Often you are left wondering if there is enough space on your electronic rectangle to do justice to the cast’s voices. Even the impressive belting numbers seem somewhat diminished by the format of the show. While you enjoy the hour’s performance, it still leaves you longing for the ‘real deal’, as if you’ve been let into an intimate dress rehearsal and remain eagerly awaiting the opening night. But while the circumstances have been undeniably challenging, the production team have deftly twisted lockdown defeat into lockdown entertainment. The backgrounds were professional, the editing smooth, and the overall production ultimately uplifting. What the production primarily lacked was a purpose – one other than simply demonstrating talent. While the voices themselves might have been ‘unheard’, their stories were not. The production definitely needed a clincher to draw audiences into the depths of DST Youtube, a theme or follow-on to link each section.
That said, many of the performances went above and beyond to seek originality. Florence Lunnon’s adaptation of ‘Diva’s Lament’ from Spamalot had me immediately hooked with its humour, the lockdown lyrics reliving our frustrations from the last few months. Likewise, Chloe Roberts’ monologue, written by fellow student Emily Wilson, historicised the present in a fascinating manner. It forced you to see lockdown through a theatrical lens, and discomforting though it was, it proved to be an excellent collaboration between the two artists, successfully using theatre as a means of processing recent events. While Sam Jones’ multi-roled ‘Book of Mormon’ performance may have been more humorous than socio-political, it certainly served as an ingenious break from the heavy ballads.
The monologues, on the other hand, took a bit more adjustment on behalf of the audience. There was a disconcerting problem regarding eye contact, with too many cast members staring off-screen. At its worst, it made you feel slightly like you were watching a self-tape audition instead of a performance; at its best, when the performer maintained that tricky gaze down the camera lens, the result was astounding. Maddie’s Clark’s monologue, for example, became a deeply personal conversation with the audience, while Stephen Ledger’s shifting leer underlined the eeriness of his speech.
The Freshers Showcase was a bold attempt to bring the light of theatre to the darkness of lockdown. It would have been aided by greater self-awareness of this situation, to give it a direction, a purpose, a theme. Nevertheless, even as it exists as a collection of distant freshers all uniting to create a piece of theatre, it is a delight to watch from the comfort of your home. The ‘Unheard Voices’ certainly earned the right to be heard, and they’re well worth their platform.
‘Unheard Voices’ is available to watch after booking a free ticket here. Regardless of which performance date day you choose, the stream will be available 24 hours a day from Friday 12th at 7pm until the 26th February.