Review: DUCT’s classical acting showcase 2023

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Nine actors perform extracts of classical plays – a menagerie of zealous, intelligent, and talented young students. Result? An entertaining spotlight of intense performances bringing the classics (here classified as anything before 1800) a cool showcase. More so, the subject matter of the classic plays took a sort of backseat, pedestalling instead these bright stars, for indeed, tonight was about them, their skill and love of acting.

The nine actors are listed as follows: Eli Fuller, Annie Smith, Zara Strokes Neustadt, Ollie Cochran, Ben Lewis, Bhav Amar, Bella Chapman, Scarlett Carter & Sarah Johnston. The roster of actors each took turns to showcase a small extract (no more than a few minutes at a time) from a classical play that they had chosen and prepared beforehand. The actors performed two monologues. Two of these extracts were performed as a duologue. Dressed in all black as well, these short in-media-res-esque pieces allowed their acting skills to cut through. Void of props (except for the occasional use of a chair), costume, or context, the characters were naked for examination. In short, a carousel of vibrant emotion and passion.  

Pressure forms. And in this acting showcase, it is fair to say that a cause for nerves hung in the air, as the actors gave their performances in front of, not only, an amphitheatrical public of mostly family and friends, but also in front of three distinguished judges: Eve Matheson, Adrienne Thomas, Carla Henry – all three professional actresses and acting tutors, here in Durham for an acting workshop on Sunday 19th as well.

However, competition was not the aim of the evening. Each actor brought with them an undeniable sense of understanding for the character they were portraying and a deep intelligence of how to act out complicated and emotionally charged scenes. Despite the short run times – Ollie Cachran’s and ’s performance of Antigone feeling especially short – the quality of the performances was undeniable. And it made for evocative and illuminating inquiries into comedy, tragedy and the human condition overall.

Of Note. First: ’s portrayal of Hamlet (Hamlet) was a haunting and emotionally charged performance, that allowed the inner psychology to be explored excellently. As well, Ollie Cachran’s Brutus (Julius Caesar) captivated the entire room, roping the audience in as though he was addressing the senate of Rome itself. Powerful and electric. as Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) also played a touchingly vulnerable piece.

Each actor brought with them an undeniable sense of understanding for the character they were portraying and a deep intelligence of how to act out complicated and emotionally charged scenes

But as a panel of judges forebodes, a winner had to be announced. Overall, the judges seemed very impressed with all performances, noting the sheer talent and dedication that went into portraying very complex characters, who were most of the time in crisis. Unfortunately, this did also at times mean that certain emotions were reprised more so than others, grief and frailty being very popular. Although great vessels for showcasing acting skill, it would have been nice to see more variety from the actors in choosing more diverse pieces.

First: two runners up were selected. Deservingly, Zara Stokes Neustadt, for her keen ability to flip between emotions in two very different performances, one being a tragic Pauline (A Winter’s Tale), contrasted with the comical and mood swinging wife, Maria (The Tamer Tamed). She did this with supreme clarity of deliverance and control. Another deserving runner up was Ollie Cochran. His standout performance as Brutus, as well as his duologue from Antigone with Annie Smith, was acknowledged for his intelligent, inventive, and dominating presence.

The winner chosen by the judges was Ben Lewis – with much deserved praise. Particularly his performance as Thomas More (Sir Thomas More) was engrossing. He excellently conveyed the inner psychology, managing to balance deep emotion with restrain, like a tense violin. The judges also commented on his ability as a storyteller, being able to connect the narrative (otherwise absent) to his performance for a more endearing and believable performance.

Thus, a sensational showcase – beaming with talent. Everyone involved can be proud of their acting ability and the performances they gave. The evening was for them, in praise of them, and justifiably so. They are some of the best actors Durham has to offer.

The event was organised by Julia Kennerley, Alannah O’Hare, and James Porter. DUCT will return to the stage (week 9) with their upcoming show: ‘The Rivals: A Comedy’ by Richard Brinsley-Sheridan.

Image: Durham University Classical Theatre

One thought on “Review: DUCT’s classical acting showcase 2023

  • I was unable to see these performances but I am immensely proud of my grandson, Ollie Cochran, for coming second in a highly prestigious company.

    Reply

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