Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Sound Dust: Do No Harm

Created by theatre director Jamie Harper and radio producer Sasha Yevtushenko
Theatre 503
(2008)

Theatre 503 is a welcoming theatre on a small and informal scale. Enticing sofas litter the bar creating a homely atmosphere.

The theatre itself has a cinematic feel, with the stage at the lowest part with the audience seated in staggered seating increasing in height.

Director Jamie Harper offers us a thoughtful production portraying the experiences of a modern couple under pressure. Billed as a mini-morality play, Sound Dust is an improvisation, using mixed media including conventional acting, radio style backing and dramatic all encompassing light and darkness effects.

Harper uses a special technique to shape the performance that he calls 'beat structure'. He explains his concept, which possibly owes something to Mike Leigh:

"Through improvisation work in rehearsals the shape of a given scene becomes progressively more honed so that without ever having to script the action, the actors have a clear sense of how one event leads to another to develop the story and move it forwards.

"By repeating and tightening the 'beat structure' the actors become able to replicate the action time after time so that they can re-tell the story consistently from one performance to another while still holding onto the spontaneity of improvisation".

The protagonist Ollie is played by two actors (Ben Smith and Ciaran McConville), symbolising the character's duality and the ambiguous divide between right and wrong in the play.

Smith delivers an earnest but at times over-enthusiastic performance, frequently relying on the use of expletives to emphasise Ollie's panic and terror at a hit and run crime committed moments earlier.

A ghostly vision of the second self is created through the use of an opaque screen, which the actors perform both in front of and behind. This device portrays the division between the internal dialogue in Ollie's head and the decisions he makes in the exterior world.

Susannah Fiore plays the anxious mistress Kathy. Overall a reasonably convincing performance with the hint of inexperience - Fiore could benefit from relaxing into the role more which would help to overcome the sense that there is in fact a dividing line between the actress and her character.

Shereen Martineau on the other hand is both riveting and convincing as Jamie, the loyal and suffering wife of Ollie. Martineau has the ability to present herself as the character she is playing with no perceptible division and delivers a stellar performance.

In the final passionate scene, that made the most of the intimate space of Theatre 503, Martineau was at least equal to McConville's tempestuous Ollie. With powerful performances from both, it succeeded by reflecting all of the spontaneity of a genuine argument.

Possibly thanks to Jamie Harper's use of improvisation, a striking element of this play was its sympathy with the human condition. All of the characters involved make some morally dubious decisions but the audience is compelled not to judge them harshly.

This production beautifully articulates the fallibility of humanity in the face of temptation and behaviour under pressure. One would hope to avoid making the same choices as the characters in this play but it leaves you with the uncomfortable question, what would I do?

Reviewer: Eva Ritchie