String

Mon 15th – Sat 20th August 2016

reviews

Ellie Donnell

at 00:21 on 18th Aug 2016

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The refrain, "the string is the thing", still rings through my ears as I sit contemplating Lauren Jackson’s debut performance, ‘String’. An abstract, thought provoking and highly metaphorical piece that explores the numerous possibilities of, yes you guessed it, string. A huge, ambiguous sculpture sits centre stage: four metal poles attached by washing lines of string and pictures or, as character Joe puts it, "there’s string and then there’s stuff on the string". This is a show that intends to perplex and provoke the audience’s imagination.

Jackson’s production is fresh and original. Opening with a girl typing a script on her Macbook, the audience is made acutely aware that they are watching a play within a play that cleverly explores the subtle nuances of metatheatre. ‘String’ is first and foremost a piece about exploration and possibility in which it is no clearer what the ‘string’ actually is by the end of the play. Well we know "the string is a mysterious thing", yet another refrain that is so arduously drilled into us, but not much else in the way of a definite answer. Yet it is precisely the unknown that fascinates and bewilders the human mind and such an ambiguity is captured and used by Jackson to an extraordinary degree.

Unfortunately, the acting is uneven and amateur. Adham Smart starts off promisingly, jumping about the stage and projecting his voice well, but loses this hearty expressiveness occasionally throughout. However, this may be a result of the nature of the subject matter. There really is only so much one can say about string which was proved by the constant refrains and resulted in a slightly laboured tone. The performance could benefit from a few more rehearsals to tighten up the mechanics. Long silences in the dialogue come across less as dramatic techniques to build tension but merely suggest that someone has forgotten to say their line. The situation, however, was not helped by the monotonous drone of a fan left on throughout the performance which sadly drowned out a lot of the actors’ speech. An unfortunate technical error that subtracted from the gravitas of the script.

Nevertheless, where certain scenes were stilted, others were comical and convincing and ‘String’ certainly deserves marks for intelligent writing and wit. Prepare for a show that is a little bit different but will undoubtedly make you think twice.

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Ed Grimble

at 17:54 on 18th Aug 2016

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The string most definitely is the thing. This simple rhyme is the incessant refrain to ‘String’, the debut play of Lauren Jackson. It is one of the ways in which this intriguing little show could be called hypnotic; the way it pulls in its audience and leaves them befuddled and bemused.

Adham Smart plays an artist whose magnum opus stands before the audience on the stage: four metal posts arrange in a square, between which are connected dozens of lengths of string with photos and snippets of text hanging on them. A great, man-made spider’s web. Visually stimulating, but as to what it means, I don’t think anyone in the auditorium could say with any certainty. A fierce debate about the inclusion of some nude photos of the artist’s girlfriend May (Hannah Marsters) suggest that this is a play about the internet. Interconnectedness and the storage capacity of the internet cuts both ways; one can both access a vast array of data and seemingly stay connected with anyone anywhere, but there is also the threat of the permanence of the upload. Mistakes committed to the vast emptiness of the internet and not easily erased.

The play’s dialogue confuses as much as its central prop. Characters actively dispute the limits and nuances of language and expression, and often argue with their ‘playwright’ (Alice Clayton), who is perched stage left typing on her laptop. Indeed, many of these scenes of perplexing and largely plotless dialogue have a ring of ‘Godot’ about them. All the while, the string continued to grow, however. “It is the a mysteriously thing, the string”, after all.

The acting is competent. Adham Smart leads the show, but there is no weak link to speak of. The Greenside venue in which I watched the performance was plagued by some sort of large fan or generator which whirred incessantly for the full fifty minutes. As a result, some of the delicate and playful dialogue is overpowered, and the rather softly-spoken Clayton is at times drowned out to the point of inaudibility. It is an irritating disruption to a play which demands the audiences full attention.

Jackson and her cast deliver a solid performance of a script which demands some thought and speculation from its audience- a welcome relief compared to the shed loads of shows which are rife with conspicuous and tortured intellectual signposting. The string may be the thing- but good luck trying to unravel it.

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