ONE ACTS FESTIVAL 2017: WEEK TWO

Darkside

Darkside intrigued the audience in the Aula Maxima last week in the second and final round of the MU Drama One Act Festival.   It was originally a radio drama written by Tom Stoppard, which was adapted to the stage by student Fiona Fedra Carter. The play follows a young girl, Emily (Karla Doherty), who embarks on a journey through her mind to find the meaning of life. We follow this adventure of Emily while almost all of Pink Floyd’s album “The Dark Side of the Moon” plays in the background.

As an audience member and fan of this album I thoroughly enjoyed this play. However, I didn’t originally like it at first. For the first half I admit I was confused as to what was actually going on. We open with the cast of characters witnessing a man get run over by a train. The following scene shows the same group only this time in a philosophy class being taught by Mr Baggott (Christopher Brogan). These type of drastic setting changes occur continuously throughout the story. Emily has many questions to ask, about life and the world we live in.  The play poses questions being displayed through the philosophy class.  Philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche are referenced and his theory of God being dead. Posing the question “If God is dead than who is in charge?”

Emily befriends the one who was killed by a train supposedly at the start, known as “The Boy”, (Conor Phelan).

Along the way we meet obscure characters like “The Wise One” (Dafe Orugbo), “Fat Man” (Domhnall Forrest) and “The Witch Finder” (Alice Meehan).

Fat man provided comedic relief in this bizarre tale through the mind. His dialogue also was the majority of the play’s movie references. Delivering lines like “We’re not in Kansas anymore” or “It’s China Town” were stand out comedic moments. Mr Baggot also known as Ethics Man provided comedic moments throughout the play also. While this was not a comedy their comedic moments are worth noting.

By far the most impressive aspect of this play was how the cast acted with its soundtrack that was in almost every scene. Moments where the music was instrumental was where dialogue among characters would take place. In contrast there were a few scenes where the lyrics/vocals of certain songs acted almost as commentary to specific scenes. One iconic moment of this was in the court room scene. The character of the “Banker” (Sean McGinn) was revealed and the opening riff of Money started to quietly echo in the Aula.

However, at times this didn’t quite work, when dialogue and lyrics became muddled and audience were unsure what to focus their ears on. Yet for the most part it was successful and that is attributed to the cast who clearly rehearsed with the music.

The stand out scene I felt was on the track “The Great Gig in the Sky”. For those that don’t know, this a quite interesting song on the album that features gospel piano style in a ballad format. There is no lyrics but booming Gospel vocals that carry the song to new heights. Best described in film School Of Rock as a “vocal solo”.

In this scene, Emily is at a podium giving a speech about the Earth and nature. Almost the whole cast is gathered watching her. During the intro of this scene when the music is instrumental she is speaking. Yet right when the vocals kick in Emily mimes speaking dramatically to the audience walking across the catwalk on the stage and eventually carried by fellow cast mates. I felt this was a fascinating decision made by the director. Karla made this mimed dialogue feel real and compliments with the song very well. That has to be my favourite scene.

Finally, the lighting in this play was also utilized to add to the overall experience. Each scene saw a different colour of the rainbow used, which suited each scene differently based on the setting like a moonlight sky or sunset. This also acts as a visual reference to the album’s rainbow on the cover.

In the end the story did make sense and revealed with a twist. This revelation had me thinking about the play more after it finished.  As it simmered my mind I recognized how it was cleverly done. This is a credit to the director Fiona Carter, to the lighting team, and of course the cast that worked very well with their soundtrack cues.

An excellent play that proved to be quite thought provoking and an enjoyable experience to fans of Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon”.

 

King Ubu

The One act festival closed on the ridiculous comedy “King Ubu”. Written by Alfred Jarry in 1896. Directed by Drama Soc veteran director Philip Byrne. Byrne has directed plays with the society since 2012, this marked his 10th and final play.  This play featured a large cast of nearly 20 people, all of these roles of importance to collectively carry this absurd comedy.

This cast were definitely put to the test in terms of physicality. Opening with a wacky dance number to electronic band The Prodigy’s “Firestarter”, involving members of the cast falling over.

While the story itself is following something of a parody to the likes of Macbeth and Hamlet, Bryne directed it with a modern twist. Every member of cast was dressed in bright costumes that almost acted as jokes in themselves. Looking like a 90s boy band in backwards baseball caps, pulled up white socks, t-shirts, a pink tutu and jeans short shorts.

We follow the rise to power of  Pa Ubu (Craig Bodger), an egotistical, cruel and grotesque man, who is egged on  to take the crown by force from his wife Ma Ubu (Lucy Flanagan). While Pa Ubu was the lead and played brilliantly by Craig Bodger. I personally felt the scene stealer was Ma Ubu. This is a credit to Lucy Flanagan’s acting. She carried her character in more than just her accent, through vivid facial expressions, and overall body movements that added to every scene she was in.

Every member of this cast gave their all that it felt like I was watching a live action cartoon. Not one of them ever losing character . The choice of props added to this. Every battle scene was fought with household items like cumbers, umbrellas, and of course Ubu’s iconic toilet brush that he takes the crown with. Characters in fact die in these battles. However the dead would still get up after being killed and return in the following scene with maybe a different hat to hint that they are now in fact a different character.  These fight scenes were so chaotic it was hard to focus on one area. One funny moment was when a sword (cumber) was broken by another umbrella. Not sure it was that was meant to happen or not, still it fit in with the overall humour.

One stand out scene was what is now being referred to as the “late toy show” scene, when King Ubu holds a race among the common people.  This was delivered to audience as cast mate’s entered the stage on children scooters, hula hoops, and boxes on wheels.

To add to the modern touch, King Ubu was dressed as President Trump in one scene complete with a “Make America Great Again” hat and blonde wig. I felt this reference couldn’t have been more appropriate to the character of King Ubu, and possibly as a social commentary perhaps comparing King Ubu to Trump.  King Ubu is an awful ruler that only wishes to take the money from the people.  Even saying silly things he wishes to impose like stop the rain and making it sunny all the time. Again the cast plays with this scene comedically by playing duck duck goose while King Ubu rambles on at the table.

The soundtrack itself acted as another form of humour for the play. Featuring songs like NYSC “Bye bye”, Evanescence’s “Bring me back to Life”. Clearly providing an audio commentary to the scenes, adding to the audience laughter at the opening or ending of a scene.

One joke that may be considered offensive was the forest scene where Ubu and his company are attacked by a “bear”. This was in fact a man in a black see through shirt,in a bear mask entering on the song “I am too sexy for my shirt”.  This is of course playing off the pun of a bear being a large homosexual male.

Overall the play was mad, wacky and hilarious and was met with a roar of audience laughter throughout the whole thing. Closing the One Act Festival with tears… of laughter. Comedic theatre at it’s best, and a finale to Philip Bryne’s ten fold of Drama Soc plays.