TRASh

Thu 25th – Sat 27th October 2012

reviews

George Meredith

at 02:49 on 26th Oct 2012

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TRASh was student theatre at its very best: A messy, sticky-floored, stupendous, snort in your pint theatre-gasm. A bloody good show.

In a packed auditorium, the atmosphere was immediately shaped by a short comedy skit explaining the conceit of the show: one man’s theatre hunting time travel through the 20th and 21st centuries in a time machine made out of a dustbin. Clattering through eight shows from eight decades (1940s – present) the pace did not let up and the entire audience, with an overwhelming warmth of support, whooped and cheered and laughed throughout.

Sophie Slater’s set design captured the mood of the piece. A mismatched wall of clashing paintjobs, wallpaper and decorations created an exciting medley of colour which fit the nature of the show. It also, as the one piece of set that remained on stage throughout, created a sense of unity and ensemble in an otherwise unconnected series of plays.

The extracts were, in the main, comic in nature. Ranging from the colourful madness of 'The Lord of the Rings', in which the worst amateur dramatics society in the world stage the council of a very camp Elrond (Jack Chesher) , to 'Single Sex' by Rory Mullarkey, which explored one boy’s excruciating journey toward sexual maturity. Other extracts included Neil Simon’s 'The Odd Couple', which presented five infectiously funny male characters at a poker game, and 'Noises Off' by Michael Frayne, a farce within a farce with especially strong performances from Tom Brada as the incorrigible Garry and Antonia Northam as the doddering Selsdon. One piece that felt different in tone was 'Shivered', a play written this year by Philip Ridley and here directed by Rosie Joly. Whilst still comic, the play centred around the charming relationship between Ryan (Jamie Budgett) and Jack (Ragevan Vasan), which gave the play a welcome emotional quality compared to the largely farcical extracts which preceded it. The final scene of the extract is a hug, which director of Shivered, Rosie Joly, describes as ‘a moment of pure, real feeling.’ Such a statement could extend to describe the whole experience of watching TRASh, a show that provokes genuine laughs and earnest enthusiasm.

This was by no means a perfect show. There were technical faults and some clumsy staging, but it was presented with such energy and strength of character that one could not help but be swept away by it all. Furthermore, there were moments of real theatrical brilliance, notably the two contrasting snapshots of the Jewish family which opened Jack Rosenthal’s Bar Mitzvah Boy (directed by Claudia Jolly and Linds Russell), and the clever fluidity of the scene changes in Single Sex, which suggest that Dramsoc holds a lot of promise for the coming year. Roll on play number two.

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Alexander Stone

at 11:04 on 26th Oct 2012

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It’s been just four weeks since the start of the new academic year (and one of those was Fresher’s) and DramSoc have done it again, pulling us headlong through eight plays from the last eight decades. In the process they showcase a whole host of new talent, and prepare students of Bristol University for another year of great amateur theatre!

I attended TRASh on the opening night and it was packed to the rafters; the experience evoked a truly Shakespearian feel of theatre as the social activity of the masses. Fifteen minutes later than programmed due to sheer volume of theatre-goers the lights dimmed and the curtain went up to a great roar from the crowd. Over the next couple of hours, laughs followed cheers followed poignant silences.

As for the plays themselves, there is a loose theme of farce, and both ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Noises Off’ are comedies stretching from the problems and tensions faced in producing a play from the written script to the animated stage. Certainly for a programme like TRASh it makes sense to chose comedy as there is limited time to set a scene and build up empathy before you are whisked off stage for someone else to try their hand. For this reason the production from the 1990s ‘Art’ fell flat, as it tells a story of male midlife crisis and modern art without a trace of humour. The majority of the student body in the audience failed to empathise, and beyond shared experiences the play had little to offer. However, the team behind ‘Shivered’, a play that debuted earlier this year, managed fantastically well to immediately draw the audience into the small, briefly overlapping worlds of four characters centered on a now derelict car plant. In the twenty or so minutes on stage, their journeys charted our modern worries of declining employment, sexual repression, aimless youths, and generated a society that those in the play eighty years earlier wouldn’t have recognised.

Props and furnishings for the production were excellent. The backdrop was a house interior with a mix of traditional woodwork and art deco wallpaper, which pretty much covers British home furnishings for at least the first five decades. The DramSoc team used one or two key pieces of furniture to immediately evoke a period. In the 1940s Noel Coward play there is a marvellous, enormous old grammar phone that sits at the front of the stage almost like another actor. In the 1970s ‘Bar Mitzvah Boy’ a grand dining table takes centre stage as the focal point of the family’s tensions. Sound and visual effects were arresting and cinematic, in particular in the LOTR play when Gandalf emerges like something out of an Andrew Lloyd Webber production – with smoke, thunder and lightning.

TRASh 2012 races you through eight lovely, individual productions. From the ridiculously camp LOTR, via gritty poker-playing New York (replete with a very believable Brooklyn accent from Misha Vertkin), through to the teenage years I certainly remember not-so-fondly in ‘Single Sex’. This play in particular had the audience in wave after wave of laughter as the young adults themselves seem to cope with modernity little better than their excruciatingly awkward parents. It was a great choice by Miriam Battye, and fantastically acted by Misha Patel and Ollie Jones-Evans among others. I’m sure by now you don’t need any more reasons to get down to the Student’s Union tonight or tomorrow to catch this but just in case, you do also get 15% off drinks in bar100 with your ticket!

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