By Sofya Grebenkina
The last Palatinate review had predicted that it wouldn’t be a surprise if this original piece of theatre, written by Hamish Clayton, eventually ended up being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. Having entirely let DDF pass me by, seeing ‘Auditions’ within the framework of the Durham Festival of Arts, seemed an occasion too fortuitous to let pass by. The audience was packed for the final Durham performance and without perhaps quite realizing it, even before the production really began, we had already been welcomed into the farcical and perhaps too familiar world of production auditions.
Mark, played by Taylor Rainford, made for an endearing first-time Director who floundered at the many mishaps that he continuously encountered. From the diverse range of eclectic actors to his Producer who only appeared to be doing her job, Mark certainly had his hands full. Faced with the terrifying prospect of a slating review, he hastily grasped at whatever thread of success that offered itself to him. Through fast-paced action the audience were left in the relentless hold of the play, as the
It is difficult to pinpoint stand out performances within the cast, as when given the chance to shine all rose to the challenge either through physical comedy or more subtle verbal humour. Max Lindon, portraying ‘just William’, a boy who is shy and frequently prone to stage fright, left the entire audience in hysterics when during the play-within-the-play he produced and destroyed two bananas in his hands out of sheer nervousness. Carrie Gaunt, playing an ex-one-night-stand of Mark’s was similarly brilliant as a 13 year old girl lisping through an audition piece from Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’. The sheer unsuppressed energy of the cast and the use of the space in its entirety, made certain that no audience member felt uninvolved.
Here the term ‘meta’ was certainly an understatement as much like the comedy itself, even the audience was sucked into the whirlwind of this play. The venue, a location frequently itself used to hold auditions within Durham, was ideally suited to the overarching theme. The actors ‘practicing’ their pieces outside only added to the atmosphere. With minimal props and set, all focus was riveted on the action, each syllable caught through the effortless delivery and each action available for scrutiny. It is to their great commendation that little in it could be picked apart for criticism. The rare break in focus or verbal stumble seemed swallowed up by the general action.
Of all the triumphs attained by this production, perhaps the greatest was that like all good comedy the play managed to poke fun at itself. Nobody was left without a jibe directed towards them, from cast and crew to the medium of theatre in its entirety. The play re-evaluated what it means to put on a successful production and in with its constant experimentation, which often comes with the freedom afforded within student writing, made the play uninhibited from the limitations that more mature work can often be saddled with. ‘Auditions’ is an hour spent in great company, one that guarantees much laughter and a feeling of buoyancy that comes long after its culmination.
Photograph: Samuel Kirkman