Ramadan Amadeus

Venue: Drama Barn
Running until: 13 March
Directed and Written by: Tom Vickers
Rating: **

Tom Vickers’ Ramadan Amadeus is an ambitious attempt to stylise the canonical Faust narrative in a novel way, but ultimately ends up chasing its own tale in the lengthy production. It is not without its merits – in the form of moments of inspired acting, and an enthused use of the drama barn itself – but it fell short of making a positive lasting impact.

Unfortunately, the play’s main fault lies in its script. Self-consciously inter-textual, but often patronising, its sweeping references to Hindu mysticism and its deities appeared contrived. Likewise, the cornucopia of historical figures and mathematical formulae, although contributed to the rich tapestry Vickers was trying to create, was so gnomically constructed it left the narrative indecipherable to outsiders. Mephisto’s line “I shall bash together all the world’s religions and make them dance to my tune” seemed to encompass Vickers’ own motivations.

Faust (Joe Williams) and Mephisto (Tom Stokes) were confident in their roles as dual adversaries, the latter in particular providing some of the play’s dramatic climaxes. In the final scenes, the deconstruction of Mephisto’s character was acted with great sensitivity, and provided some of the most emotively evocative scenes of the piece.
Williams, though providing moments of brilliant passion, spent all too much of the two and a half hours looking vaguely whimsical, and as if someone had asked him a particularly troubling question.

Williams’ scenes with Kali (Anjali Vyas-Brannick) showcased some of Vickers’ best writing, poignant and beautifully authentic and subtle. However, the quality of the writing was not mirrored in the one dimensional acting, which failed to fulfil its potential and lacked chemistry. The ensemble cast provided more than adequate support, in particular Schrödinger (Ryan Lane), was thoroughly convincing and a pleasure to watch.

The set and placement of the audience was imaginative and aesthetically impressive, mirroring the circle imagery in the piece and evoking a sense of continuation into the audience. The use of fire and light was pleasingly symbolic, and gave the play atmospheric mythical resonance. Sadly the inclusion of a largely discordant violin did not provide as effective a backdrop to the scenes as could have been hoped.

The production’s primary fault lies in Vickers’ misunderstanding of the way in which “imagination is more important than knowledge”, and it became a showcase of his intellectual gymnastics. The inaccessibility of his text overshadowed moments of true dramatic integrity and some impressive performances.

16 comments

  1. This is a clumsily written and unprofessional review. You’ve excelled yourselves again Nouse by publishing vacuous, pompous arrogance.

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  2. This is inconsistent reviewing

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  3. What does “self-consciously inter-textual” even mean?

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  4. Epic typo of Anjali Vyass-Brannick’s name there…

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  5. 11 Mar ’11 at 4:16 pm

    Catherine Bennett

    Please double-check actors’ names: Kali was played by Anjali Vyas-Brannick, not ‘Anfali Ypass-Brannick’.

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  6. Were portions of this review written on a phone with unreliable predictive text? Or maybe the reviewer’s having difficulty with her own handwriting – Kali was portrayed by Anjali Vyas-Brannick; and Ryan Lane played the part of Erwin Schrödinger, of quantum mechanics and cats fame.

    It’s not limited to this particular reviewer, but it’s interesting how Nouse as opposed to the other two campus review sources always seems to manage to get somebody’s name wrong.

    Although I agree with some of the opinion of the gnomic text (not that I’d be able to decode the references anyway being a lifelong STEM student), I think a little is lost in this review with regard to the stand-out and riveting performances of Stokes and Williams. Both of them, particularly Stokes in his captivating appearance and commanding and well-honed vocal character, manage to hold the stage superbly. Although a tad repetitive, I also see justification in Williams’ holding of a quizzical face – he’s being guided around visions in his brain by a suited demon peeling a mango, meeting historical figures quoting Hindu mythology and quantum probability, whilst carrying a relationship, dealing with the death of his father and being aware he’s actually in a hotel room in India. A little confusion, I feel, is warranted.

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  7. Whatever your opinion of my work could the Nouse team please amend the following:
    The role of Kali is played by Anjali Vyas-Brannick.
    The role played by Ryan Lane is spelt Schrödinger.
    Apologies for the lack of program but if reviwers want infomation it is best to email the society who can pass any questions on to the director.

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  8. Dear reviewer,

    Although generally well written, there are a few points I would like to raise, to possibly aid your writing in the future.

    First, when writing things like the following: ‘Likewise, the cornucopia of historical figures and mathematical formulae, although contributed to the rich tapestry Vickers was trying to create, was so gnomically constructed it left the narrative indecipherable to outsiders’, I would suggest making them less ‘indecipherable to outsiders’. When criticising somebody’s writing, make sure your writing makes sense.

    There are a few other mistakes here and there that would have been eradicated by the simple act of looking through the review slowly to check for any such errors. Two examples of this are: ‘Anfali Ypass-Brannick’ and ‘Schrodrger’.

    Regards,
    A person who believes critics should themselves be criticised just as carefully…

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  9. 11 Mar ’11 at 5:31 pm

    Anjali Vyas-Brannick

    There are other objections I could make, but I’d just like to see my name spelt correctly.
    Thank you.

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  10. Well you try and write a play while studying a degree.

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  11. Whoops. How embarrassing.

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  12. Typos aside, I think the review’s pretty spot on with some things. Two hours in I was struggling a bit to find the motivation to follow what was going on in front of me

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  13. Nouse for once has the gall to write a negative review and friends of the show go for attack as the best form of defence. How very interesting.
    Yes spelling errors are clumsy and unprofessional, but editors should be catching these and they don’t invalidate the opinions of the reviewer. Had this been a five star review, I sincerely doubt there’d be these kind of complaints.

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  14. Yeah, I agree. Having come across some of Vickers’s stuff before the gnomic indecipherability of his texts is a pretty valid criticism.

    You could almost see it that the reviewer here chose to mimic Vickers’s irritatingly dense mode of writing, perhaps?

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  15. Agree entirely with the above comment. Typos aside, it’s refreshing to see an honest review in one of the campus papers. If the critical comments above weren’t exclusively from actors in the play and their friends, they’d be rather easier to take seriously.

    DramaSoc have got to get used to the fact that campus publications can’t always wax lyrical about your productions like they seem to have for the last few years. No-one is denying that writing and performing a play in term time is a lot of effort. Just remember that if you want to go into drama, you’ll have to be able to deal with stronger criticism than someone saying your play had ‘true dramatic integrity and impressive performances.’

    Deal with it.

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  16. I’m sorry, but saying ‘Nouse for once has the gall to write a negative review’ is like saying Eeyore for once had the gall to complain about something.

    I personally didn’t see the play, so I cannot comment on the actual substance of the review. However, I think that there is an issue which needs resolving, not just in this particular review, but in the entirety of campus media.

    To be blunt, it’s getting more and more sloppy. Yes, the editors should be catching the errors. More and more of the time they don’t. At the same time, writers of reviews, reports etc. should check through their own material before passing it on to the editors. It only takes a few minutes to check for typos, afterall!

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