The Freshers’ plays, in allowing anyone new to acting or backstage work to take part in a production, are an important part of keeping drama at York fresh. To see the same faces appear in plays again and again, regardless of how good a performance or how small a part, is far less interesting in the long run than seeing new actors emerge. There is a nasty rumour about Dramasoc being a tight-knit coterie, an impenetrable clique of actors, directors and producers which these Freshers’ plays dispel. The Barn doors were flung open to newcomers both on stage and behind the action with impressive results.
Much Ado About Nothing
Rating: * *
Unfortunately in comparison to the second Shakespeare play of the night Much Ado felt a little flat and drab in it’s performance. The majority of the performances were delivered accurately, if a little quickly, with Don Pedro, Benedick, Claudio and Beatrice becoming the real standouts of the show. The real let down was the lack of confidence throughout the performance; louder, clearer and less rushed speech would have made the world of difference. The staging and set design was another barrier to the flow of the play; clunky chairs, messy and distracting use of a mocked up bar as well as poor use of the Barn stage all made it seem that little thought had been put into making Much Ado look professional.
An Ideal Husband
Rating: * * * *
Directed by Stephanie Bartlett and produced by Sarah Lewis
This cut down version of Oscar Wilde’s play managed to work well, allowing a window into the lives, as well as wives, of the English elite. As with Much Ado some of the performances were a little rushed but the length of the play as well as the fast clipped English accent, portrayed excellently by Bengee Gibson and Sam Williams, mostly account for this. There was a great deal more set than I expected any of the short plays to dare use that often resulted in lengthy scene changes, more importantly though it did create an accurate feel to the intended ostentation of the play’s settings. There was noticeably a great deal of effort put into the costumes used too with Ella Gaworzewska’s red dress suiting her character’s fierceness as well as ensuring she stand out markedly from the otherwise cream coloured set and costume. As with most Wilde, the play included wit, observations and satire that the cast portrayed very well considering the cuts in the text.
As You Like It
Rating: * * * * *
Directed by Rhiannon Ashcroft and co-directed by Megan Middleton
However biased I sound towards this play it was without a doubt the best performed and staged production of the night. Not only did the play, in maintaining a minimal use of props and setting, look incredibly professional, so too did the performances flow amazingly. The clarity and confidence of the acting, speedy scene changes, effective and simple costumes as well as the thorough understanding of the text made As You Like It an incredibly refreshing production to watch. Chris Lodge and James Tynan had the most impressive scene when comic timing revealed how much rehearsal must have gone into the making of this play. The comic elements arising from the gender swap in the original were maintained even though there was a complete sex reversal in all characters. The use of Fran Isherwood for both Duchesses could have been a technique that flopped but because of the smart staging and costume as well as Fran’s skill in portraying to polar opposite personas made it work perfectly. The play also made complete use of the Barn; it showed that running around the outside of the Barn in order to come on at a different side of the stage is, however tiring, incredibly effective and appreciated. Ryan Lane, doubling up as Phebus and Le Beau, made sure this was a play that induced a great deal of laughter from the audience and also elicited a great deal of praise from the rest of the Dramasoc team afterwards; it was truly the best saved until last.