The best of DST

By

Nicola Todhunter for paper

Durham’s theatre scene may not be as well-known as London’s West End, nevertheless, it also boasts huge talent. Let’s take a look at this year’s best productions so far.

First on the list is The Furies. Although receiving mixed reviews, this offering from Durham University Classical Theatre most definitely deserves a mention, if just for its ambitious staging and impressive prosthetic make-up (make-up artists Charly Burnell, Michelle Novellie, and Idgie Beau all deserve praise.) The terrifying Furies, played by Georgina Franklin, Beau, and Phillipa Mosley, combined with haunting acoustic melodies composed by Ben Williams, immersed the intimate audience in Castle’s Normal Chapel.

Next is all-time theatre classic, The Importance of Being Earnest. Ooook! Productions deserved the night after night full-house it received, with charismatic performances from Phillipe Bosher as the audacious Algernon and Chaz Pitman as the endearing Jack Worthing. However, Freshers Abigail Weinstock and Brown stole the limelight with their outstanding portrayal of the hyperbolic Lady Bracknell and the sensual Gwendolen. A brilliant production all-round.

In keeping with the comedic sentiment is DULOG’s absolutely hilarious The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The relatively small cast and crew (for a musical) provided hours of unrelenting humour and wit. The impeccably detailed set, stretching beyond the stage into the theatre, convincingly portrayed an American elementary school, which worked amusingly well with the audience participation. Sophie Mcquillan’s adorable Logainne SchwatzandGrubenierre and Maxwell Spencer’s eccentric William Barfée were remarkable; their quirky mannerisms and delivery were unwavering and brilliantly believable. Other exceptional performances included Russell Lamb’s and Alex Prescot’s switching of distinct roles. Convincingly portraying school children was no mean feat, so all the cast deserve a well-earned slap-on-the-back, especially whose performance as the pre-teen Chip was side-splittingly funny. It must be added that the musical numbers had fantastic choreography from Rebecca Meltzer. Director, Simon Lynch, definitely took all the right risks in this uproarious production.

Another highlight of the Epiphany term was winner of the Durham Drama Festival, The Noctambulist. This character driven play by Joe Skelton investigated every day, banal life in a humorous manner. The cast worked beautifully together and Alexander Dury’s brilliant portrayal of the paradoxical Albert must be noted. A superb example of a student-written play.

Then, of course, there is this year’s annual Gala Show, Guys and Dolls, an exciting and polished performance which wowed Durham audiences. The two couples were, of course, the highlight of the show. Michael Forde was exceptional as the cheeky Sky, showcasing his Durham-famous acting talent, but also his lesser known singing talent in Luck Be a Lady. He worked well with Lucy Rowlanes as Sarah, whose musical numbers demonstrated a beautiful high range. However, it was as cold-footed Nathan and Sophie Mcquillan as Hot Box girl Adelaide that really captured the audience’s attention. Their comfortable interaction and evident connection drew in affection, while their hold over the audience was never relinquished. Nevertheless, every character took their moment to shine and the New York accent was effortlessly maintained by the cast, especially by Mcquillan and Maxwell Spencer (Benny Southstreet) who adapted the accent to perfectly suit their characters. Stand out numbers included the Hot Box Girls and Havana dance sequences, choreographed by Susie Hudson. Ellie Gauge, the director, should be congratulated.

Last but by no means least, is Jerusalem. It, hands-down, has to be the best production so far. It was close to flawless and the set was particularly impressive (caravan, real turf and all.) All the cast should be commended for their moving, immaculate performances, especially Georgie Franklin’s touching portrayal of the resigned Dawn, Joe Skelton as the pathetic Ginger, and Hugh Train, who showed great comic timing, as Lee. Michael Forde was simply astonishing as the outlaw Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron with his compelling physicality, line delivery, and acting from the core. This exhausting (in the best possible way) three-hour emotional rollercoaster was an astounding feat from director, Matt Dann.

Congratulations to all those involved, we await the Summer term’s productions with impatient delight!

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