The best of Durham Student Theatre in 2015

Readers and reviewers of Palatinate Stage pick their favourite Durham production of 2015

Cock

Battered Soul Theatre

A play titled Cock sounds like a cheap laugh or a confrontational call to arms. But Battered Soul’s production was nothing of the sort. Rather than forcing you to take a stance, it gently entices you into the story of its hapless characters. Primarily newcomers, the cast displayed a captivating commitment to every minute detail; both these actors and Battered Soul are ones to watch. Performing in the tiny venue of the Horsfall room without any set, Battered Soul took a risk. It paid off. Cock is that rare play to make you laugh, cry, and think – long after it is over.  

 

Swing By Around 8

Durham Drama Festival 2015

One of the highlights of 2015 for me was written by first-time playwright Jess Bray; the hilariously awkward comedy Swing By Around 8. Durham Drama Festival (DDF) is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the DST calendar, and also a fantastic opportunity for all budding actors, directors and writers. The sophistication and the comedic timing of this piece is one of its strengths. Superlative actors, onstage chemistry, clever blocking and imaginative lighting design combined had me on the edge of my seat. Well, that is until and at the final reveal in which I just remember rolling in my seat with laughter. A fantastic production, and well deserving of its rave reviews at Edinburgh Fringe 2015. Shows like this truly highlight the professionalism of ‘student productions’.  

 

Bent

Ethrael Theatre

I have it on good authority (from my mum) that I haven’t cried since I was born, but as I left The Assembly Rooms Theatre after seeing Bent, even I couldn’t help but claim that ‘there was something in my eye’. To say Bent tugged at the heart strings is an understatement. Rather, it quite aggressively grabbed them and kept yanking. Even with its astounding set, brilliant direction, and simply incomparable performances, I will never forget the way Bent made me feel. Despite the horror of its historic backdrop, Bent was surprisingly current and the short moment of silence as the play ended was indicative of the pure shock and emotion it produced in its audience. Not only did Ethrael’s production do justice to Martin Sherman’s incredible script, it also created, for me, one of the pinnacle pieces of Durham Student Theatre. Ambika Mod

Werthers
and Charlie Keable in DDF 2015’s Werthers and Wrinkles. Photograph: Florence Chater

Werthers and Wrinkles

Durham Drama Festival 2015

Werthers and Wrinkles is my favourite show I’ve seen in Durham to date. The production as a whole was very underrated. It was beautifully written and staged in the most drab room imaginable, which was genius. and Charlie Keable were outstanding, and with ’s direction it was a joy to watch.

 

Spring Awakening

DULOG

Looking back at the accomplishments of Durham student theatre in 2015, one of my favourite productions was DULOG’s Easter Term show Spring Awakening. Despite the challenges posed by this demanding and controversial musical, DULOG succeeded in producing an extraordinary performance that was testament to the talent and dedication of all involved. The balance between the serious and comedic elements was just right; you could have cut the awkward tension in the theatre with a knife at certain moments in the performance. The excellent cast were able to perfectly capture the sexual frustration and teenage angst of the characters, as well as portray the intensity of emotion they experience in this heartbreakingly tragic story.

 

Woman in Mind

First Theatre Company

This year, I have been reduced to undignified fits of sobbing by many deeply affecting plays, but none of them have been quite as well-rounded as Woman in Mind. It was one of those rare tragi- comedies where both the tragedy and the comedy were equally brilliant. ’s Susan was one of the most nuanced characters that have graced The Assembly Rooms Theatre, whilst and Sam Westwood added lashings of comedy value. Best bits? That line about Muriel’s knickers; the infamous umbrella lighting change; and Mitchell at her finest in the traumatic ending. For ’ directoral debut, not bad!

 

The Government Inspector

Lion Theatre Company

I loved The Government Inspector. The cohesiveness of the whole production was so impressive. It’s hard to make physical theatre look seamless with such a massive ensemble cast, but the choreography was executed flawlessly. I also loved the aesthetics of the production, I thought the attention to detail in costumes and make-up was breathtaking. It was like a toybox coming to life on stage. I really like watching productions where the cast is obviously having a wonderful time on stage. The Government Inspector had this in spades, which enhanced my enjoyment of it no end!

The company of Aidan's College Theatre's The Taming of the Shrew. Photograph: Laura Chapman
The company of Aidan’s College Theatre’s The Taming of the Shrew. Photograph: Laura Chapman

The Taming of the Shrew

Aidan’s College Theatre

Aidan’s College Theatre’s offering of Shakespeare’s classic comedy succeeded on every level. The casting was remarkable, featuring the fiery Rebecca Cadman, the endlessly entertaining Sam Westwood, the much-missed Tim Blore as an anarchic Petruchio and , who seemed as if she was born to play a horny old man. Courtney Cliffe’s direction brought a sense of chaos to the piece, framed in a beautifully realised 1920s setting, complete with live jazz band in the background. The whole thing came together beautifully and hilariously, and all involved should be incredibly proud. Bring on 2016.

 

The Addams Family

DULOG

It is almost impossible to overstate the sheer delight that DULOG’s The Addams Family was. Both the cast and crew succeeded with flying colours in creating an effortless-looking musical that also managed to be family-friendly. Confetti, cannons, crawling on tables, and an incredibly convincing Spanish accent were just some of the highlights of a musical that seemed to have nothing for a discerning audience to pick on, even on the usually uncertain first night.  

 

The Bald Prima Donna

Raving Mask Theatre

What Durham theatre makes up for in quality it can sometimes lack in experimentation. This was certainly not the case for ‘The Bald Prima Donna’, an experience (I use that word deliberately) that was a bit like watching Lewis Carroll narrate a dinner party whilst having a brain aneurysm. And I mean that in a good way. As stylish as it was stylised and incomprehensible as it was commendable, this little gem of absurdism was a beautifully staged and ferociously acted piece, the dripping white make up a testament to the commitment and sheer physical exertion of the actors. Whilst not to everyone’s tastes, The Bald Prima Donna was a breath of fresh air for Durham theatre last year and showed that theatre doesn’t have to be conventional or even understandable in order to be hugely enjoyable. Rohan Perumatantri 

Featured photograph: (Top row) Samuel Kirkman; (Bottom row)

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.