Hornets

Mon 25th – Wed 27th February 2013

reviews

Kavina Minhas

at 10:01 on 26th Feb 2013

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The Wardrobe Theatre can be a difficult space to work within purely because of its lack of space, however TapTap Theatre’s intimate performance filled the room beautifully. Staging and props were appropriate and clever, working with the limits of the room to create two worlds that were comfortable and easy to believe in. One of my personal highlights were the bold scene changes that took place unapologetically on stage; the actors staying in character and moving about the space naturally, which made these sequences just as engaging as the scripted action. This is just one example of where Ally Watson's direction worked extremely well, adding a consistency and flow to the entire evening, despite dealing with two very individual scripts and styles.

The first piece, written by Miriam Battye, illustrated the tensions that form between familial ties and how the unconditional nature of motherhood can be tested to its limits. Sidharth Sagar played Edwin - a 26 year old boy struggling to deal with his girlfriend, his skin condition and his mother, played by Rose Lucas whose performance was subtle and beautifully convincing, displaying an individual equally struggling to stay sympathetic to her son's problems. The two worked well together and there was a tangible quality to the writing and performance alike that made it extremely personal; Battye's voice as a writer was strong and the moments of recollection between characters were authentic, whilst also staying extremely accessible for an audience. The second scene complimented the first with an additional intensity and pace that made it slightly stronger. I particularly loved Rose Lucas’ portrayal of a drunken mother which is unlike any kind of drunk we see as students; it’s understated, embarrassing, a little scary and hilarious all at the same time. The only note I made throughout was that despite the wonderful writing and excellent execution, at times I felt the strength of a female writer’s voice just did not settle well in the body of a male character. I would love to see the piece again having it explore the relationship between a mother and daughter and see the effect this has. Change Edwin to Edna... well maybe not Edna, but the idea is there.

The second act cemented the high quality of TapTap’s new writing take-over. It was complex, witty and laugh out loud funny throughout, brilliantly performed by the duo of James Marshall and Harrison Clark. Written by Tash Dummelow, the concept of the piece was wonderfully original, yet simple - it is every Dad’s fantasy to be able to actually physically restrain any boy from causing their daughter harm, and Dummelow effectively demonstrated this on stage. She managed to retain an authenticity to her characters within a hyperbolic situation, helped of course by the performances of the actors. 'Food, glorious food' metaphors were woven throughout and it was a piece that was fully aware of what it was and where it was going, impressive for any University writing; there was nothing irrelevant and everything was said without explicitly saying anything at all. A joy to watch.

Ultimately what I adored and admired about both pieces was the way they both fully entertained and immersed you in a world that was almost too easily applicable to your own. In the good way, the way that makes you actually go home and think about what your mother may have given up to raise you and how parental protection is the one thing that always is, but never should be taken for granted. It is a testament to the entire production and everyone involved that I, as an audience member, went home feeling satisfied and happy, but also immediately picked up the phone to call home.

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Rose Bonsier

at 19:22 on 26th Feb 2013

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A small stage, limited set and two forty minute duologues - a combination that, on paper, looks very hard to pull off and might run the risk of being a bit dull. This is what Tap Tap Theatre’s ‘Hornets’ consists of, but instead the outcome is a remarkable piece of theatre that’s engaging and fantastically performed throughout. The small and select cast and crew are made up of some of Bristol’s best talent, and the sheer amount of work and consideration put into the production is apparent from the outset.

It was split neatly into two halves with an interval separating what were essentially two separate plays linked by the theme of family relationships. Named simply 1 and 2, the pieces were written by Miriam Battye and Tash Dummelow, two well respected writers whose work has already made a name for them on the circuit of Bristol student theatre. Both directed by Ally Watson, the pieces are carefully constructed to have deliberate symmetry, with a perfect combination of serious depth and brilliantly observed humour that kept the audience engaged all the way through.

The first was a brutally honest meeting between mother Vivian (Rose Lucas) and her grown up son Edwin (Sidharth Sagar), whose lifelong battle with skin condition Psoriasis left him feeling bitterly frustrated and threatened to destroy his relationship with girlfriend Fran. The second featured a doting, and somewhat controlling, father (James Marshall) with a habit of tying his daughter’s boyfriend (Harrison Clark) to a chair in order to question him, believing of course that the young man would never be good enough for his little girl. The common denominator between the two seemed to be the tender and poignant exploration of a parent’s love for their child, depicting a mother and father who ultimately wanted the best for their son and daughter even if they went about it in some rather extreme ways.

With such a small cast the actors had a tough job as each of them was on stage for the whole of their piece and eyes were on them the whole time. Nevertheless, the characterization of every one of the four actors was absolutely spot on and their line delivery was perfectly naturalistic, with well-directed emphasis in all the right places to pick up the nuances of the script. None of the performances ever felt over-acted or forced, and I only noticed one slight line slip during the whole evening. James Marshall and Rose Lucas deserve special congratulation on their convincing portrayal of two middle-aged characters, something the production didn’t shy away from but which is often avoided in student theatre due to the difficulty of casting such roles.

The Wardrobe theatre can be a tricky venue to perform in because its black box nature and lack of wings means there is little scope for set or scene change. The production managed this issue very well, dropping the lights roughly half way through each play so the actors could change parts of their clothing in order to cleverly indicate the change of scene and the passing of time.

If you’re looking to see a fast-paced, action-packed production full of special effects it’s not ‘Hornets’. But what this play has to offer is even better, and any production that can grip an audience’s attention like this one did by simply having two people conversing on stage is definitely something worth seeing.

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