Review: The Heidi Chronicles

Identity, success, feminism – all delivered with sharp comic edge. reviews DramaSoc’s richly layered, relevant production

Image: Gareth Young

Venue: The Drama Barn

★★★★☆

The Heidi Chronicles are simultaneously funny and feminist with a fantastic cast and some fabulous one liners. The play follows the life of Heidi Holloway, an art historian, and the lives of her fellow baby boomers as they develop from the childish optimism and hopefulness of the 60s to becoming adults in the 70s and 80s. The play is deeply concerned with issues surrounding identity and success. While Heidi (Georgie Smith) struggles to find happiness and fulfilment in the new radical world as she is constantly compared to the “super women” of her generation and feels that she herself is not able to be considered for that title, her friends and peers have their own difficulties to overcome. From issues of sexuality in the 70s and 80s to changes in careers and political beliefs, Heidi’s friends Peter (Calvin Jordan) and Susan (Ella Dufton) also show the challenges facing individuals in this piece of gritty realism.

The interaction with the set at the beginning of each act where the pieces of art Heidi was discussing in her lecture were projected onto the wall with hanging frames behind her was a really interesting and innovative use of the setting and, through quips about her Teaching Assistant, Smith was able to seamlessly dismiss any issues with her speech not correlating with the piece of art behind her.

There were so many brilliant scenes but undoubtedly the standout one was an emotional interaction between Jordan and Smith towards the end of the second act. Some of the drama barn’s audience were moved to tears because of the heart wrenching acting and dialogue. To follow on from this scene was a hugely ambitious task that Smith and Ed Foster admirably endeavoured upon in order to give the audience closure on the relationship between Heidi and Scoop. Despite their best efforts this closing scene was definitely overshadowed by the penultimate emotional and intimate moment and Smith’s monologue which had taken place mere moments before. The monologue was set up as another lecture but the change in lighting (Joseph Luk) giving Smith a dramatic spotlight rather than the welcoming lights and the art projected behind her definitely set the scene for a drastically different type of speech.

Credit also has to be given to the host of supporting characters, displaying an impressive range of performance styles with varied multi-roling. The different personas were easily identifiable as a result of their costumes and impressive accents. The entire cast was a triumph in each of their nuanced roles and the character development in Dufton’s Susan in particular was clearly expressed as she went from boy-obsessed teen, to radical feminist, to become a success story in the Los Angeles sitcom industry. The realism of the characters made the plot even more interesting and the comedy seemed to build on the performances rather than detract from the seriousness.

The Heidi Chronicles is brilliantly witty and a well constructed comedic play whilst also being highly feminist and thought provoking. It is hugely enjoyable whether or not you have an interest in history of art. A lot of the issues raised are relatable to university students and to current affairs and life.

Keep the faith.

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