Venue: The Drama Barn
‘Sometimes things just happen, and people just do things for no reason, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ This is what Narrative director, Katie Smith, writes regarding the meaning behind the Drama Barn’s latest weekend play and this is exactly what you should expect.
Anthony Nielsen’s ultra meta work is nonsensical, witty, utterly bizarre, and even a little thought provoking. Perfect for student theatre. And the Drama Barn’s latest production, in remaining faithful to all its quirks, is thoroughly enjoyable.
It is not a perfect play nor does it ever try to be. There were a few first night blunders but for a play as odd as Narrative they just added to the overall fun. A lot of the time you feel like you’re watching a two-hour show of some bizarre yet really well articulated improv and it works for the overall effect. Some may not ‘get it’ but as Katie points out, that’s not the point, and, taking aside the quirkiness of Narrative, its clear that a lot of hard work and thought has been put into making it.
Given that the cast are playing fictionalized versions of themselves Costume Designer, Emma Whitworth, definitely made the appropriate decision to have the cast in what essentially appeared to be their own clothes with the only universal addition being ‘My name is…’ stickers, and this minimalist approach is a fitting touch that is expanded to the props, too. The curious notes of paper that appear throughout may appear as if they were scribbled at the last minute but that is surely exactly the point. The play is zany on its own so it doesn’t need to be too grandiose with its production and it just makes it even more comical when a few of the more out of place costume and prop pieces turn up.
At first I thought the cast were a bit of an odd choice, but by the end I was convinced of their chemistry and especially their ability to work with the audience. They were all really rather funny, relatable and likable. Most importantly, they live up to the zaniness of the play.
There were a few performances that particularly stood out. Anthony Rickman was thoroughly enjoyable as the downtrodden but lovable best friend of Joel Bates and provided a lot of the comic backbone of the play. A number of scenes of his scenes are incredibly memorable, including accidentally becoming a viral sensation due to an incident with a ‘footmouse’ and a brief incompressible moment where he and Joe Mackenzie discuss the appropriateness of ‘sex’ as slang. However, Hannah Froggrett definitely got the zaniest part of the play and manages to flit from perfectly normal to hilariously ridiculous with ease.
Admittedly, there are a few things you can nitpick with; for example, there’s a lot of use of videos shown on phones, which though entertaining and definitely fitting with the oddity of the play, due to the smallness of the screens can be rather difficult to make out.
Nonetheless, Narrative’s faults are mostly forgivable as it’s charming, incredibly funny and something a little bit different. It most certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and as the director already guarantees it will make absolutely no sense but it’s a fun two hours of student drama that manages to be a somewhat touching without taking itself too seriously.