The Write Bear (DramSoc Performance)

Tue 15th – Fri 18th November 2011

reviews

Marleigh Price

at 02:26 on 16th Nov 2011

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‘It's the perfect way to while away a cold November night’, promised the Facebook event, and ‘The Write Bear’ did not disappoint. Written, directed and performed entirely by students, the richness of talent residing in Bristol University’s DramSoc was clearly conveyed. The intimacy of the venue of the Wardrobe Theatre, combined with the sheer insanity displayed in each and every one of the monologues on show, gave the vaguely uncomfortable feeling that one was witnessing a weekly meeting of Psychotics Anonymous, so convincingly were the roles taken up by the actors.

From the very first monologue, and as each subsequent actor stepped forward from the back of the theatre, the anticipation as to where each piece might take us added to the fun of the evening and, for me, it was this contrast between each of the monologues and duologues performed that made the night so effective. We, the audience, were hurled ungraciously into the hands of a bunch of madcap characters and presented with everything, from the senile ramblings of an old man with Alzheimer’s, to a meeting with a transsexual future self. Each of the pieces, in spite of their brevity (each lasted no more than about five minutes), carried enough individual merits and provoked enough thoughts that I could quite easily produce a five hundred-word review of each of the nine pieces I watched.

Judging by the reactions of the audience and the laughter that accompanied the performance, more than a few found Zoë Hunter-Gordon’s portrayal of the housemate from hell to be uncomfortably familiar. Dressed in a Barbour jacket and complete with flicked hair and a vocabulary that included such words as ‘obvs’ and ‘totes’, Rebecca Reid has created a character that embodies all of Bristol’s worst stereotypes and would undoubtedly be a worthy rival for Orlando of ‘Gap Yah’ fame. The night managed to juxtapose humour with some truly challenging and poignant issues, and credit must be given to each of the writers for portraying such topics with a striking level of sensitivity. In particular, Elf Lyons’s piece about a young woman’s reaction to her elder sister’s eating disorder (with the protagonist played to seething perfection by Rose Wardlaw), stood out in the way that it harnessed bitter resentment and sibling rivalry. Wardlaw’s amplification of the jealousy and disdain present within the script gave a shocking and darkly humourous perspective to a piece that had the potential to be unrelentingly bleak.

The use of props in the performance was kept to a minimum, and this simplicity worked with the brevity of the pieces, meaning that the interlude between each performance was short and created little distraction from the actors and monologues themselves. Special mention in the props department must be given to Ben Behrens; I can only say that the process of preparing and consuming of a bowl of Special K has never before been quite so compelling to watch. Music and sound effects were used with varying success; the conclusion of Mike Ross’s piece with a blast of some modern sounding pop song seemed utterly incongruous with the monologue of an old man who takes pleasure in waving at cars. In the best instances however, sound effects enhanced the scene; in Edmund Cuthbert’s piece, directed by Alice Kornitzer, the use of a soundtrack of background noise and phone-button-beeps meant that the aural scene setting left no need for visual enhancements in making us feel as though we were present at a busy station. Without doubt, this was the most innovative use of sound of the night and, despite a slightly jarring opening, with the sound turned uncomfortably high, it added an interesting extra layer to the piece.

My only real complaint at the end of the night came from the fact that only nine of the ten monologues were performed on the opening night; I could easily have sat through the entire performance again, so seductive was the whirlwind ride of characters in this performance.

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Helena Blackstone

at 08:39 on 16th Nov 2011

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Monologues by nature, involve a character alone and outside of their context and therefore an unrealistic privacy from which unusual psychological details are revealed. Many of the (student) writers for The Write Bear picked up on this as a jumping point from which to explore the idea of speaking out - of sincere, private confession. Elf Lyon’s venomous piece portrays a sister daring to express the hatred of the sister that shows her up with anorexia. Rose Wardlow’s performance is easy and true, and at her first entrance she commands such incredible atmosphere, making her so human as to charm us, even with her hatred. Edmund Cuthbert’s writing also explores what is revealed in privacy, with his original idea for the unfolding of a self and a story through the re-recording of voice messages. They overlap and erase each other in the manner of a realistically contradictory self, each recording enlightened by those before it. The boundary involved in private revelations is emphasised when a message is accidentally saved and his confessions become public. Private lives are taken in a different direction with Tash Dummelow’s piece, written somewhat like a stand-up comedy routine in terms of its constant laughter-pushing punch lines, with the addition of a charming character in an intimate setting. Ben Behrens has the audience raring to laugh from the very beginning: his entrance suspends us in silence, while we watch him ponderously prepare himself a bowl of cereal without explanation – a clever prop use as the odd intimacy confused the audience into nervous laughter. By this time the audience is bubbling with curiosity and his first unexpected line on the subject of bees releases a wave of laughter into the audience. Ben Behrens’ impeccable comic timing and Hannah Horan's close direction do well to realise the writer’s distinct vision on a seemingly odd topic. Mike Ross’ piece brings the private out in a different way, by his character’s oblivion to his exposure and the pain felt by the audience on his behalf, despite, or because of, Freddie Morton-Hooper’s intelligent choice to play it with cheery sincere naivety. The use of sensitive motifs, such as the simple showing of his backlog of notebooks recording the responses of passers-by to his heart-wrenchingly optimistic waving, contribute to our sadness at overstepping a boundary of privacy. Emily Wells’ piece has an imaginative premise that captured my affection by its simplicity. It is so honest in its smut and played so sweetly and warmly by Nathalie Mayne that I was full of affection by the time of the racy punch line – “I wanna f*** on a tardis”. The intimate setting of The Wardrobe Theatre is perfect for the comfortable exploration of a diverse range of ideas. Beautifully acted, and some serious talent amongst these writers – be on the look out for more original writing from them.

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Comments

Zoe W; 17th Nov 2011; 17:35:37

Hey! Just to clarify: The piece with the "f*** in a tardis" punchline is actually written by Emily Wells and performed by Nathalie Mayne.

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