By Suzy Hawes
Theatre, for the most part, is intended to make you laugh or make you think, whilst obviously keeping you entertained. Raving Mask Theatre’s Old Times achieved all of this. Alongside moments of laughter, there were moments where you could have honestly heard a pin drop in the audience.
Old Times is open to many different interpretations, but this production managed to be intriguing rather than confusing, and left its audience wanting to know more. Kate and Deeley begin the play discussing Kate’s old friend, Anna, who is coming to visit them. We then watch as Deeley and Anna use their tales of the past in a verbal battle over who knows Kate best, who loves Kate best, and who has possessed more of her. The transience of the past is explored as everyone seems to have a different view on what happened twenty years ago, including an eerily silent Kate.
The production’s simplicity meant it relied on the strength of its actors. They did not disappoint. Olivia Race (Kate) was enigmatic. Even when she had very few lines, she drew the audience’s eye as she reacted (or purposely didn’t react) to the things being said about her by Deeley and Anna. Race was subtle and believable in her challenging role, exuding a constrained inner turmoil which made us really think about her character and her inner thoughts.
Michael Yates (Deeley) offered some really refreshing comic relief to a very intense production, but also managed to convey the dark undertones of the play in his more serious speeches. He was incredibly believable and had wonderful physicality throughout. He is clearly a versatile and talented actor.
Izzie Price (Anna) arguably had the most difficult role of the three. The ease with which she switched between excitement, anger and awkwardness proved fascinating to watch. Price was extremely expressive throughout, and her facial reactions to some of Deeley’s more shocking lines were subtle yet funny.
Race, Yates and Price worked together brilliantly to create an intense atmosphere that made the audience eager to learn more about their past – whoever’s version it may be.
The choice of the Horsfall Room as the location for this production was a great choice. Whilst it was perhaps a little too small, as the chairs were very packed in which made visibility difficult, this was not enough of an issue to detract from the show. In fact, the smallness and cramped nature of the space aided the production in heightening the tense atmosphere, as the audience were only feet away from the actors. The lighting design was simple due to the limited technical abilities of the small room. However, when the lighting changed, it had a strong effect: further aiding the tension of the piece. The detail of the set was subtle but effective, including a framed photograph of Kate and Deeley.
Lily James certainly had a clear and consistent direction throughout. The presence of all three characters on stage at the beginning, with Anna looking out of the window while Kate and Deeley discussed her upcoming visit was very interesting, and immediately let the audience know that this wasn’t going to be a simple play. Whilst her individual interpretation of the play wasn’t entirely lucid, this wasn’t to its detriment. Everyone can take something different from it as there are so many possible interpretations. After the curtain, the audience persisted in discussing the characters, how they connected and what exactly really happened twenty years ago.
The ambiguity of Old Times was probably one of the best things about it. It was intriguing and even cathartic through the regular switches between humour and sinister tension. Old Times is one not to be missed.
At the Horsfall Room, St. Chad’s College, until Sat 25th April.
Photograph: Anna Jeary