Monday After the Miracle
Guildhall School of Music and Drama (Studio)
I love and hate final year student shows from drama schools. I love them because the casts are so talented and enthusiastic, and I hate them becase the casts are so talented and enthusiastic. You just know that, by the law of averages and the nature of the profession, many of these talented and enthusiastic youngsters will not make the progress in the profession that their talent and enthusiasm deserve. They are a joy to watch, but thinking about their possible futures is so painful.
Monday After the Miracle picks up the story of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan seventeen years after Gibson's first play about Keller, The Miracle Worker, ended, and covers about ten years. The later play looks at the effect that Annie's love affair and marriage has upon the relationship between her and Helen, as well as how the relationship between them affects her marriage.
It is very much darker, exploring - to me, at any rate - deeper feelings than those in the first play and giving the small cast tremendous scope for exploring their craft. And boy, do they take the opportunities offered!
The Guildhall Studio is (as is the nature of these venues) a very intimate space, bringing the audience and actors into very close proximity to each other, something which even some experienced actors find difficult but these young actors handled it really well.
Helen is almost imperious. Used to being the centre of Annie's life, she finds the thought of her teacher's attraction to journalist John a threat and proves to be very manipulative. Laura Elphinstone has the unmoving eyes, upright gait and unnatural voice of the deaf perfectly, to the extent that her reversion to the normal in the curtain calls came as a shock, we were so convinced of her blindness and deafness. She also managed that difficult balancing act, retaining our sympathy whilst being somewhat of a monster of self-absorption.
As Annie, Kristen Bush captured superbly the woman torn between love for her husband and the much more complex web of feelings for her child/life's work/creation which is Helen. The deterioration in her own sight, which actually takes place later in the play than in real life, mirrors the move away from John, her husband, bringing her even closer to Helen.
As John, Thomas Padden's portrayal of a man increasingly disappointed in his marriage and his life and unable to live up to his best intentions, with his consequent slide into drink and frustration, is painful to watch. Indeed, the whole situation is painful, for both Annie and John have the best of intentions, as, indeed, does Helen, but the realities of the situation mean that Annie cannot have both.
Bob Morrison as Pete, the man who falls in love with Helen and is willing to sacrifice his own journalistic career for her, only to be used and rejected, had an endearing mixture of naïveté and almost puppy-dog devotion which meant that we were, perhaps, as devastated as he was by Helen's unknowingly cruel dismissal of him.
William Woods had perhaps the most thankless part, as the doctor who represents the world outside of the tangled lives, the world of normality, involved in but not part of the intensity into which all of those concerned with Helen are plunged. Quiet amid the fireworks of the others, he saw, with bafflement, his well-meaning attempts to bring some normality into their lives fail time after time. Woods brought to life a part which in less sensitive hands could have been a cypher.
A multi-level set which cleverly adapts, with the minimum of fuss, to make two houses, and often low intensity, atmospheric lighting help create and sustain the mood.
All in all a fine production of a quality which augurs well - industry conditions permitting - for the futures of these young actors. May they have that elusive luck which every actor needs to go along with their talent and training!
Reviewer: Peter Lathan