Venue: The Drama Barn
This weekend’s Dramasoc production of Annie Baker’s The Flick, directed by Joe Willis and produced by Adam Brain and Amelia Hamilton, is an odd love letter to film, following the three employees of a failing Cinema in Massachusetts. Consistently funny and charming, the play slowly explores the insecurities and faults of its central characters in a manner which is both bleak and endearing.
Upon entering the Drama Barn, the audience were met with an odd inversion; the stand in which you would normally sit was obscured by sheets of translucent plastic and rows of chairs were lined across what would normally be the stage. It also quickly became apparent that two men were sat behind the barrier, staring into the screen between themselves and the audience. We were behind the screen of a cinema. The set design, created by Joe Mackenzie, was clever both in its ability to make the audience think about viewership, as well as to accurately represent a dingy cinema without major alteration (the most significant of which was a central column to form a projectionist’s booth).
This is a play with an interesting relationship to film, it chronicles the fall of non-digital film making and bemoans the fact that ‘there hasn’t been a good film since pulp fiction’. On stage, classic film posters adorned the walls: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Empire Strikes Back, La Dolce Vita, Vertigo, Back to the Future, among several others. Games of six degrees (in which you must link two actors by their film appearances in less than six steps) cut through the production, allowing an impressive selection of films (both brilliant and otherwise) to be ever present. At the same time however, out of the central cast only Avery, an awkward and film obsessed college student, actually cares about the decline of physical film or the rise of digital. For the other two, film only really matters because it provides them with work.
The soundtrack complements the action excellently, with the play’s protagonists often stopping to gaze into the audience accompanied by the likes of LCD Soundsystem’s ‘New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’ and Richard Hawley’s ‘Coles Corner’. Beautifully melancholic, these tracks epitomise the struggle of the central cast, who fear that something must be wrong with then, while also bringing out the humanity of a play full of pauses, where people cannot properly connect.
The three main performances were all well carried out, particularly those of Alex McLintock and Kate Lansdale (who played Sam and Rose respectively). Christopher Casbon’s portrayal of Avery was also good, if a little exaggerated at times. The only slight lapse in performance came from the accent of Gabriel Elston’s Skylar, which didn’t quite sound consistently American.
It is hard to find fault with the play itself, the only real complaint I could give is that the ending didn’t quite feel like it satisfied the rest of the production. While leaving questions unanswered and characters unfulfilled definitely fits the spirit of the play, the ending seemed to come early, without a significant climax.
The Flick manages to toe the line between being melancholy and sweet, without sacrificing its sense of humour. It chronicles the turmoil of a broken cinema and the broken people who work in it, and is accompanied by an intriguing set and soundtrack. Even if the end does fall slightly short, this has far more to do with the high expectations set by a solid production than any major flaws towards the play’s close.