Harry Review: ‘mixed feelings’


Castle Theatre Company’s production of Caitlin McEwan’s Harry hoped to act as an ‘ode to friendship’ and university, by delving into the psychology of student life, but sadly this production failed to provide the audience with anything of the kind.

Michelle Grace and Hatty Tagart play Sophie and Caitlin, two girls who meet at Durham and bond over a love of Harry Styles. Jenny Baker’s directorial note claims that the play is about ‘so much more’ than that, however, providing insight into female friendship dynamics and the complexity of the student experience.

Some funny moments and a few monologues characterised the more enjoyably parts of the play, but I felt that greater tonal diversity could have been brought to several of the longer passages of dialogue and the blocking was rather static at times.

However, the cast was mainly hindered by a really rather poor piece of writing. McEwan’s script has all the emotional depth of a puddle, broaching issues such as mental health by simply mentioning them in the hope that moments of pathos will just be conjured out of buzz words and surface level talk of ‘relatable’ issues. Some of the conversations between Tagart and Grace also had rather awkward pauses between lines that simply did not work together, and I felt that their acting ability was given little chance to shine.

McEwan’s script has all the emotional depth of a puddle

At one point, Caitlin explains who Harry Styles is to Sophie for the first time by showing her a music video. Sophie then instantly says that she thinks she ‘loves him … I actually love him’. This is hardly how star obsessed twelve-year-olds act, let alone eighteen-year-olds, and while there is some level of absurdity that an audience readily embrace, this interchange is just one example of many moments in Harry that are so far detached from normal human interaction that watching them becomes quite uncomfortable.

More could have been achieved technically with this production. The mock-student bedroom set and the use of a projector to show the audience what was on Caitlin’s laptop screen were welcome additions, but the lighting and sound were incredibly simple. Slight changes of brightness, denoting a passage of time, characterised the only variant on bright white light, and sadly even these were not well executed (with lights clumsily flickering on multiple occasions).

The invitation to include the audience in the pair’s final dance to Harry Styles’s music is a nice touch, but the other dances in the play ran on too long and one could not tell if they were ironic or unintentionally awkward.

Ultimately, this play might appeal to some people. It is fairly lighthearted and is time away from the library, but I would not expect wonders. I do not know what market there ever was for McEwan’s play and I would hesitate to suggest it should be readily performed in the future. Sadly, no level of creativity or acting ability can carry a script that should never have been written and I think it is a shame that the risk to perform something so different did not pay off.

Photography: Castle Theatre Company

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