By Alice Chambers
Hatfield Chapel was an ideal venue for the finale of Durham University Classical Theatre’s annual competition in which 7 actors took to the altar to perform their short monologues. Special mention must go to the DUCT exec, in particular George Ellis. His professional introductions and well-rehearsed overviews, of both the actors and their pieces, were slick and informative. Moreover, the lighting cues, operated by Christie Clark, added a dynamic finish to the starting and end points of each individual performance.
Without a doubt, the standout performance was James Cumming as Gloucester from Henry VI Part 3. At times cold and malicious, at other times puerile and charming, he possessed a mesmerising control of language. Unlike the majority of the performances, there was a real understanding and belief behind every word. His Scottish accent gave a melody to the coarse imagery. Although I appreciate that he was trying to adopt an unnerving tick, he must be advised to keep his tongue in his mouth for future performances, as this was quite distracting. Furthermore, Francesca Chaplin as Lady Anne from Richard III was bitter and impassioned in her presentation of a mourning wife. She had real presence and emotional range but needs to remember to be motivated in her actions, particularly when kneeling and pacing about the stage. This meant that sometimes her movements came across as fragmented and unnatural. Another notable performance was Harry Scholes’s performance of Lucifer from Byron’s lesser-known play Cain. The setting of a church was both uncomfortable and poignant for a speech from the devil in which the writing of the Bible is condemned. Scholer’s performance was indeed expressive, used good use of the space, and contained a necessary charisma. However, it lacked variation and was consumed almost entirely by bitterness.
Joe Pape’s enactment of Edmund from King Lear and Maddie Lock’s Lady Bracknell from The Importance of Being Earnest were amusing and well understood. The former brought a sarcastic smarminess to his interpretation. The latter particularly stood out for her expressive ‘handbag’ and dramatic exit. However unfortunately, both actors lacked the age and authority to produce reputable performances. Moreover, Martha Wrench’s Juliet from Romeo and Juliet was wide-ranging in pace and emotion. She created a believable build-up to her ultimate drinking of the potion. However, she must be careful that her manner of walking is not too expressive and her thought-processes are more nuanced in their expression. Tom Jacob’s performance of the Watchman from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon was an interesting choice of piece. Jacob’s resonant voice had a real power and authority, particularly in the closing moments. However, he sometimes lacked facial expression, which meant that his performance was less convincing. Overall, it has to be said that the choice of pieces had a wide range and the acting of a very high standard. DUCT must be commended for a splendid evening.
The results are as follows:
1st Harry Scholes
2nd Joe Pape
3rd Maddie Lock
Photograph: DUCT prod team