Under Stokes Croft

Sun 5th – Thu 9th February 2012

reviews

Chelsey Stuyt

at 08:01 on 6th Feb 2012

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Jack Dean's “ Under Stoke's Croft” is an hour-long mind trap that leaves you in a state of sated saturninity - in the best way. Childlike backdrops and a Sendak-esque monster are juxtaposed with the little lives of everyday people, resulting in a production that left the audience by turns thinking philosophically and laughing out loud. Favourite moments include Agnes, the elderly pensioner who sings along to quaint yet politically incorrect songs, or the philosopher – Beardy Dave – held captive behind the shiny chrome bars of the apple store, or Jeremy and his hilariously personal relationship with his SAT-NAV. The characters are all drawn realistically and without compromise; they are both entertaining and thought provoking.

The script is lively and the wordplay highly entertaining. However, as Harrison Ford once said to George Lucas, “you can type this, but you sure can't say it” - the speed of the delivery and the multi-layered nature of the lines left me wishing I could read the script instead of listen to it.

This is a one-man show that relies heavily on the strength of the individual. While I initially found Jack Dean rather wooden – because of lack of expression in his face - this soon became apparent as a strength, and he finally won me over with his commitment to the individual voices and mannerisms of his characters. He has a definite talent for accents.

The set design is simple and generally effective. A single white sheet hangs behind the performer on which the beautiful graphic backdrops are projected. Though this was usually quite effective, particularly during the quiet monster moments where one is left only to contemplate the fate of the characters, the performer’s position in the front of the screen was distracting from the projected words and made them difficult to read.

The final moments are the production's strongest. The sudden introduction of live-action video, taken straight from the April 21st Tesco riots, thrusts the entire production into reality. It brings a visceral and intimate quality to the production, which left many in the audience moved and philosophically ponderous. An ending that was softened by the beautiful bluebells near Brunel’s bridge compounds this. “Buildings define the people in them” he says, “and if the buildings don't match, the people don't match”. Food for thought.

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