The Good, The Bad & Jemma Clarke / Txtlife
Katherine A Dunn / Lee Woodward
Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
This was one of several double bill, lunchtime shows which are regularly performed in the SJT restaurant, using a small raised stage area at the far end. Most of the audience, including Sir Alan Ayckbourn himself, had very sensibly arrived an hour early and had some lunch!
The first play was a nicely crafted piece containing some witty lines, and the tension is maintained throughout. The writer, Katherine A Dunn, is 23, has been a member of the SJT Youth Theatre for seven years, and works at the theatre itself as Production Assistant. I was impressed by the set (designed by Annabel Campbell), in which a sofa and cushions change to a park bench and back again in the twinkling of an eye (I have to confess, I blinked and missed the first change, then wondered how they'd got the bench on stage so quickly). My only adverse comment would be that the religious music in the 'nun' scene was a bit too loud and distracting, bearing in mind that dialogue was going on at the same time.
Jemma, played convincingly by Diana Logan, is on the brink of suicide, when she receives two unexpected visitors -- Good, played by Scott Garnham in a white suit, and Bad, played by Laura Beresford in a slinky black dress and fishnet tights. Good and Bad encourage Jemma to reconsider her decision to take her own life, and take her on a soul-searching journey. There was good rapport and timing between the three actors.
The second play concerns the relationship between Vicky (Fiona Bradley) and Ray (Liam Parker), who are not an item, think perhaps they should be, but never get round to doing anything about it. A third character, played by Jess Haigh, speaks the various text messages that are sent to Vicky's absent boyfriend and Ray's absent girlfriend, displaying them at the same time on a flipchart. I don't know if it was intentional that Text Voice should shout, but I think a more natural style of projection would have been preferable.
And at the risk of sounding a bit non-PC regarding accents, I was a little taken aback by the pronunciation of 'emotion' by Vicky -- it sounded more like 'immersion'. About three-quarters of the way through I began to lose track of who was texting whom, and on whose mobile; at the same time I felt things were beginning to sag a little, and perhaps the play could do with being about ten minutes shorter. There was a fluffed exit at the end, when Vicky went back for her bag and got in a mixup with Text Voice over who should go off first. However, there was good rapport and good timing between Vicky and Ray, and their conversations came across as realistic and believable.
The writer, Lee Woodward, has written six plays - this is his first to be performed in public.
Cheryl Govan, who directed both plays, is the SJT's Education Officer and has directed over thirty youth theatre shows. She also runs theatre workshops for schools, colleges and universities. The SJT Youth Theatre (Rounders) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and currently runs seven weekly sessions with over 210 regular members aged between 8 and 25. Not surprisingly, the waiting list for those wishing to join is a long one. I think the young people of Scarborough are extremely lucky to have such a wonderful resource right here on their doorstep - I can think of no better preparation for professional theatre training.
Reviewer: Gill Stoker