In A Town

Thu 3rd – Sat 5th November 2011


Aoife Sullivan

at 00:22 on 4th Nov 2011



The play ‘In a Town’ had a significant absence of information about it. There was no indication of plot or background information on the cast or crew, primarily because it is a new work that is still in its stages of development. Because of this lack of information, I was unsure what to expect when I entered the theatre and there was a clear state of bewilderment amongst the audience when everyone was told not to enter the performance space, but to all head upstairs and wait further instruction.

Upstairs the perplexed audience were drawn into the performance unexpectedly by a woman calling from a grand piano in the corner to listen to her song. The song was an ideal opening to the performance, as I believe it encapsulated the whole theme of the show: ordinary people in an ordinary environment. It was a simple acoustic performance, which through its occasional wrong notes (whether deliberate or not) made it clear that the topic of the play was ordinary people - not performers. This drew the audience’s attention, and also drew us to one corner of the room to get closer to the soloist, which made it all the more surprising when people within the audience, seemingly sporadically, started joining in, in perfect harmony. This was highly unexpected and it was a pleasant surprise when the singers chaperoned us, while remaining in character, downstairs to choose our seats.

When the audience was seated, the show began very unobtrusively. The character who introduced the show by stating that he was not a performer ironically began the first full ensemble number within the studio space. This is where the description of the ‘a capella song-cycle’ really kicks in. The number began as a solo, and in small sections, the ensemble joined in. When all layers were added, the number became satisfying, enchanting and harmonious. The ensemble began singing in perfect homophony accompanying the soloist flawlessly, initiating the way the ensemble would seamlessly gel as a group throughout the rest of the performance.

The a capella nature of the show was a refreshing change from most musical shows and the innovative use of the voice and vocal effects made the use of instruments entirely redundant, excluding one number where a xylophone was used for its beautiful chiming effect (and as a tuning tool on a few other occasions).

The immaculate ensemble work makes it almost impossible to single out performers for praise, (further made difficult by the fact all the performers are credited in no particular order as a chorus), however one female performer’s voice shone through as a sparkling soprano with remarkable clarity during the ensemble numbers. Many of the ensemble members were given solos, but not all were, and it seemed like some performers (particularly one sonorous bass) were unfortunately denied a solo because of the necessity to use them as accompaniment. Other praiseworthy ensemble work included their general affinity for rhythm and how they executed the apt choreography (by Miranda Cromwell). Sounds like panting and stamping were used to create the feel of pace in the piece and to avoid the audience getting inattentive to the sounds of singing alone. The choreography gave a simple but effective visual aspect to the show that gave it a further dimension.

There were many competent directorial ideas, and only a few that were worthy of criticism. The only tool I believe was not used to its full effect was lighting. A streetlight was fixed in the centre of the stage and used as an icon only once, near the beginning. It was an admirable idea; it acted as an unconventional spotlight for the soloist in one song, however this was effective only at the start of the song, then the dynamic of the action outgrew it and it seemed that the lighting should have grown with this intensity. In the grand scheme of the production however, this is a very small criticism and did not affect my enjoyment of the show.

The description of the show said ‘a work in progress’ and while there are changes to be made, the show was definitely going in the right direction. If this was the unperfected work, I cannot wait to see the final production, and I sincerely hope that ‘The Darkheart Ensemble & Twisted Theatre’ go far.


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