Imogen Usherwood’s Meeting Point is simply marvellous and redefines just how professional student theatre can be. It was a brilliant idea to have Usherwood’s original script be the first piece of live theatre in Durham in months, as it showcases just what Durham Student Theatre has to offer; incredible writers, actors and directors.
The plot follows Sadie and Matt, who match an online dating app and start meeting up in cafés and bars. The pair share seemingly meaningless details about their lives, such as their favourite type of cake, when in reality these details provide insight into their deeper selves that they choose not to share with each other. Instead, the audience hears the ins and outs of their thought processes as they break the fourth wall in a Fleabag-esque manner.
With ease the actors shifted from talking to each other to breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience. Co-directors Hugo Millard and Imogen Usherwood made a curious decision to have the other actor not freeze while their colleague breaks the fourth wall. While not initially convinced by this choice, it worked well to make the conversation seem even more natural, and the entire scene seem more realistic despite the abstract nature of speaking directly to the audience.
Hatty Tagart and Tom Cain shone in their roles as the ‘cool’ Sadie with more to her than meets the eye, and the unconfident poet Matt who finds being touched uncomfortable. The actors were so invested in their roles it was contagious, and as their characters grow fonder of each other the audience simultaneously grows fonder of them.
Catherine Turner and Archie Collins were compelling in their roles as the ensemble, demonstrating their versatility by seamlessly switching between an unsympathetic Google voice, a hopeful Tinder voice, and potential Tinder dates. This pair of new DST faces are truly ones to watch.
It is no wonder that the acting is astounding with such a poignant script as Usherwood’s, who realistically captures the painful nature of online dating. The structure is remarkable, revealing small details about Sadie’s past dating life in each scene, and thus subtly increasing audience intrigue. It is so refreshing to see a piece of student theatre that avoids clichés and is able to have such a profound effect on its audience in such a short amount of time.
Anna Bodrenkova’s lighting was clever in parts, using the colour red to symbolise individuals being left on ‘read’ online. However, these strong points were overshadowed because there were one too many occasions where the actors were not lit well enough. While this could be seen as symbolic on occasions, it was distracting from the actors’ talented portrayals of their characters. Bodrenkova’s use of blackout was strong, and ensured that the scenes were succinct and compelling. Unfortunately, the length of the blackouts became frustrating, and I questioned whether the props needed to be taken on and off quite so often. That said, these issues certainly did not detract from the overall quality of the production.
Usherwood’s play was inspired by Louis Macneice’s poem ‘Meeting Point’, and the motif ‘time was away and somewhere else’ truly reigns over this production. If you want to escape the realities of modern life and feel as if time is ‘away’ in a world of awkwardness, Meeting Point is certainly the one for you.
Image: 12 South Theatre Company