Shake the Clouds

This term is to see something of a rise in new student writing at the York Drama Society with a third of the slots taken by plays never staged before – the first of which is Jamie Salazar’s ‘Shake the Clouds’

Production: Shake the Clouds
Venue: The Drama Barn
Rating: ***
Run: May 27 – May 30

This term is to see something of a rise in new student writing at the York Drama Society, with a third of the slots taken by plays never staged before – the first of which is Jamie Salazar’s Shake the Clouds. The production interweaves the mythos of Dido and Aeneas (Sophie Steiger and Robert Stuart) with the explorations of a team of archaeologists: Laura (Georgia Bird), Nathan (Adam Alcock) and Alex (Charlotte Roots Alexander-Marsh). Salazar’s take on the story and the various twists and turns he executes leads the play into moments of emotional depth and claustrophobic intensity that the cast rise to.

There is a very natural chemistry between the company, most acute and certainly affecting in quiet pauses, momentary glances, nuances of body language. In particular this occurs between Alcock and Bird whose relationship develops most naturally over the course of the play. In comparison the relationship between Stuart and Steiger’s characters is not given enough stage time to evolve, presented in stabs of emotion that while well executed by the two actors seem too rushed. However neither pairing is complete without the other and the sections where the performances play best with their script are the duologues. These are for me the most well crafted sections of the play, as is all the temporal interweaving that occurs as past and present collide. The requirements placed on Alcock and Alexander-Marsh by one of these in particular deserves special mention since both actors achieved the required transformation excellently. So much of what these actors can achieve however was dictated by their material and ultimately Salazar’s script has to be brought into discussion.

The play is dialogue heavy, not a flaw in itself, but something that requires not only solid acting, which the play has, but inventive staging to envelop it. This cannot be said to be always present, despite the ambitious and largely effective set as well as simple but effective lighting and sound techniques, particularly in the second half. Certain exchanges seem overwrought, artificial, often a symptom of either over-direction or dialogue that is in place to achieve a dramatic aim rather than one of character. Often the actors’ moments of wonderfully tender or awkward character development jar against overtly stated emotion or plot advancement. At crucial moments the characters are as likely to simply tell us how they feel as they are to show it naturally.

Salazar is playing an unusual game, pairing the ability to write semi-fantastical story with naturalistic dialogue, a feeling as if we have briefly stepped only half-way out of the ‘real world’, all bound within the unfolding of more serious underlying ideas. The result is that Shake the Clouds in style and tone most reminded me of the work of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, better known as the writer of the universally adored novella, ‘The Little Prince’. While Salazar isn’t quite on that level, most notably allowing what in Saint-Exupéry makes up the complex subtext of ideas to spill into the conversations of his characters directly, resulting in some of the more artificial sections mentioned earlier, he is finding himself a competent and unique voice. Of these ideas many are well explored, in particular the second act being primarily centred on the logical evolution of one daringly executed blind-side, but equally many are throw in and undeveloped, or rushed over too quickly. Shake the Clouds feels like a writer playing with ideas, and of course that is exactly what it is. Salazar describes the central theme to be that, “No-one knows what they’ll be remembered for. Expectations of your own legacy are never certain,” and undoubtedly that is the most prominent, but there are others in the play as yet unresolved.

Shake the Clouds seems to lack experience in realising ideas fully, both scripturally and visually, but it must be remembered just how ambitious some of the ideas are. Salazar deserves to develop his voice. Behind any flaws of presentation the over-arching concepts are elegantly intertwined and researched. All they require is to be more deftly executed.


  1. And in English…?

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  2. 29 May ’10 at 11:28 pm

    Shook by the clouds

    That was the most pretencious and tautological review I’ve read on here so far…

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  3. “This cannot be said to be always present, despite the ambitious and largely effective set as well as simple but effective lighting and sound techniques, particularly in the second half.”

    Mate that doesn’t make any sense.

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  4. It seemed like an interesting and well written play, it just needed more work and perhaps more time

    – that was a better review than what I’ve just read.

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  5. 31 May ’10 at 12:11 am

    ookkaayy then...

    I would like to congratulate the writer for possibly one of the worst reviews written to date….Well Done!

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  6. 31 May ’10 at 12:40 am

    grammar please.

    Shake the Clouds was very ambitious, not in set or staging, but in pure content. Salazar’s script had moments where the dialogue was very naturalistic, and moments when it seemed forced, or wasn’t expressed clearly enough by the actors. Certain techniques used, such as the torches, really amplified the tension. The cast were very strong (and Rob Stuart is fittttt) apart, perhaps, from Charlotte Alexander Marsh. Her voice can be a little grating at times and unlike Adam Alcock, did not seem to make a physical or vocal transformation when she made the transition into another character. Jamie’s choice of story was obviously incredibly well-researched, and was a very brave attempt. He is a talent to watch – one that, with perhaps a longer rehearsal period, practice, and constructive critical feedback, could really shine.

    Vickers needs to stop name-dropping and focusing on the actual play he’s meant to be reviewing. And learn how to construct sentences.

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  7. I submit. I will be writing no more reviews this term. I clearly need to go away and consider what is needed of a Nouse review.
    Frankly the charge of this writing being damn hard to read is well-founded, and for that I apologise.
    In my defence I would argue the review isn’t tautological, and is I hope only pretentious by its carelessness in style.
    “This cannot be said to be always present, despite the ambitious and largely effective set as well as simple but effective lighting and sound techniques, particularly in the second half,” might well make more sense if phrased, “The staging lapses into the unimaginative at times. However there are simple but effective lighting and sound techniques, particularly in the second half.”
    I don’t think one comparison, intended as complimentary, can be deemed name-dropping ‘grammar please,’ but as I said, my sentences here are indeed a mess. I stand by what I said, just not how I said it.
    For some proof my ability to review is better than this please read the ‘Lorca is Dead’ review in the achieves.

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  8. 31 May ’10 at 2:54 pm

    perfectly acceptable

    I think people need to go away and stop complaining about the reviwer. The review was fair and considered.
    I suggest people read last weeks review of the last five years to see a weaker review.
    People need to stop complaining and it seems that the critics above where proberly connected to
    The play and whilst it was a good play I suggest Vickers critisisms are well founded and no other reviewer
    on nouse,the yorker or vision are any better.

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  9. I disagree, Alexander-Marsh was good! There was not really much of a chance for her to develop a performance due to the limitations of the script in my opinion.

    Tom – don’t give up on reviewing. What Arts needs is a decent editor to check these things. Writing reviews is very hard, especially under such a time limit. It’s difficult to make anything considered when you need to get it up on the website as soon as you can. Just remember your audience; it needn’t be an essay with references, people probably just want to read a clear opinion of the play.

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  10. 31 May ’10 at 5:25 pm

    Culture Vulture

    I think the state of the arts section in Nouse is in complete disrepear anyway. Often when I read the reviews, they demonstrate very little knowledge of the play itself just a subjective opinion on simply what they liked and disliked often being overthrown by masses of unnecessary jargon. Tom, I think your review was fine and I liked that you were able to bring in knowledge of other sources to make a sound understanding comparison. You admit that the review was perhaps a little ‘hard’ to read which is acceptable and I think we are falling into a ‘culture vulture’ territory – People not always knowing what they are talking about…ahem… Lowenna Waters!

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  11. Shake the Clouds was rubbish, just admit it. The way in which the characters were created was dire- they all had about as much depth as a puddle, thus making it very difficult for five fantastic actors to actually show themselves at all. I found many of the lines very awkward and too conversational (who says “gotten”?) and it was therefore hard to believe in, and be drawn in by, what any of the characters were saying.

    Kudos to Jamie for writing it, the idea was good but it needs a lot of work.

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  12. 1 Jun ’10 at 1:04 am

    An Audience Member

    @grammar please: You are obviously deaf and blind if you could not see the changes that were made between characters. Unlike Adam Alcock’s performance, which totally lacked subtlety and finesse, Charlotte Alexander-Roots Marsh’s was very cleverly created and naturalistic- especially considering the completely naff script and dreadful character she had to play!

    Oh and I really enjoyed Sophie Steiger’s nude scene too! Good stuff.

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  13. I reeeeeaaaaally enjoyed the lack of clothing on Rob Stuart and Sophie Steiger. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that was the only reason I went to see the show.

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  14. Tom Vickers is my hero for putting “Charlotte Alexander-Roots Marsh”. Made-me-laugh-so-hard-I-peed-a-little LAD.

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  15. Yeah, there has clearly been some facebooking instead of actual research… but what is a reviewer to do when there’s no cast list or programme?

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  16. First, thanks to all those who came back and said I should keep at this. Very grateful to you. I will be writing more reviews this term. Let us hope the next one doesn’t have the same flaws, eh?
    Secondly – apologies to Charli, the name switch is a typo – not due to facebooking. Can the sub editors correct it? Name should be Charlotte Roots Alexander-Marsh.

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  17. Tom Vickers, you are my hero. You can’t make up comedy like this. Please don’t stop writing. your-biggest-fan LAD

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