Green Door Theatre Co.’s debut into the world of university drama certainly provides a pleasant evening of theatre; however, the show was somewhat stifled by what appeared to be a general lack of confidence.
Larry Shue’s The Foreigner is a comedy concerning the misadventures of a boring and rather shy Englishmen, Charlie Baker, who travels to the Deep South of America in an attempt to escape from the reality of his wife’s flagrant infidelity. At the suggestion of his friend, he assumes the guise of an ‘exotic’ foreigner who doesn’t speak a word of English. What follows is a highly amusing attempt by the local residents to communicate with this ‘foreigner.’
Director Tom Mander, does not really fill the audience with much hope when he admits in his Director’s Note that when he first read the play he ‘didn’t like it.’ Thankfully he comments that the cast did turn him around, but his initial sense of apathy was regretfully felt throughout this performance. If a director is not fully behind his play then it’s an unfortunate truth that that play will inevitably never reach its true potential.
Despite a somewhat stilted first act, the cast did appear to get over what I assume to be first night nerves, and the play slowly began to come to life. Indeed, the cast as whole must be commended for their expressive reactions to one another over the course of the play, which reached a genuinely hilarious climax during Baker’s ‘story,’ delivered in complete gibberish.
In particular, Kaelan Bhate portrayed Sergeant Froggy LeSeur, excellently. His delightfully animated facial expressions made him one of the most watchable members of the cast
However, whilst each character was wonderfully defined and expressive individually, the ensemble should really work on their on-stage chemistry to prevent the more intimate moments from becoming awkward. More attention must also be paid to blocking as some actors standing upstage were regularly blocked from our sight.
Archie Hill was a delightful Charlie, and he grew in confidence as he got more and more into character as Chaw-O-Lee, the eponymous foreigner. Yet, despite many lines being delivered flawlessly, every time he sighed or made any form of exclamation (as he did regularly in the first scene), I felt that these noises sounded very forced and unnatural.
As for the remainder of the cast portraying the residents of Tilgham County, Georgia, it must be said that their accents were achieved with varying degrees of success. A bad accent doesn’t necessarily mean a bad performance, but there was an evident sense of self-consciousness about their accents that I felt hindered the confidence in their performance. Some members of the cast just have to commit to their performances head on and be more confident with what they’re doing. James Fulton, for example, could have given a very convincing performance as the Reverend David Lee; however, when he could be seen playing with his wristband (which should have been removed) or fondling the entrance of his pockets, the suspension of disbelief was eradicated.
Nonetheless, Rosie Sewill, Victoria Bull and Polly Jacobs were all remarkable and they certainly warmed into their roles as the show progressed. Sewill and Jacobs both maintained a perfectly stylised, yet convincing physicality, in their respective roles as the elderly Betty Meeks and the child-like Ellie Simms. Jacobs slow yet sincere Ellie was extremely likeable as a character and her ‘lessons’ with Charlie proved to be some of the most engaging moments in the show. Bull’s portrayal of the dramatic and broody Catherine Simms was equally memorable and entertaining.
The set was nicely done and the lighting design helped the whole show feel rather homely. The only minor niggle concerning tech was that the rainfall noise recordings at the beginning of the show were slightly too loud making it somewhat of a challenge to hear the actors, especially as my ears were adjusting to the slightly awkward acoustics of the Chad’s quad.
I do not want any members of the cast and crew to be disheartened by what may appear to be a critical review. If the cast can be more confident in their performance, this has the potential to be a thoroughly entertaining show.
I also do not want to discredit the fact that everyone involved with The Foreigner has clearly been working immensely hard and it would be a shame if their work went unnoticed; overall, the show was well executed and entertained the audience. Most audience members regularly burst into laughter and even clapped after some scenes. Maybe I am just hard to please.
This all being said, I can confidently conclude that the only way is up for Green Door Theatre, and I hope to see more from them in the future.
Image: Natassja Moczarski.