EAST, Steven Berkoff
In association with De Montfort University.
Runs: 2h 15m, 15 min interval to 11 March
Review: Ian Spiby, Tuesday 8 March
BRAVURA PRODUCTION WITH FLAWED PERFORMERS
EAST was first performed in 1976 and since then it has become very popular with, particularly school students, maybe because it represents what many adolescents feel about their lives combined with poetry, nostalgia and wish-fulfilment.
But despite its apparent simplicity (it is performed on a bare stage with five chairs and a table) it is extremely difficult to pull off successfully, mainly because it requires actors of considerable technical skill and virtuosity. The play consists principally of monologues and duologues delivered directly to the audience, the length of which routinely covers two or three pages of script.
The Curve’s production, in collaboration with De Montfort University uses the best of DMU’s drama students together with all the resources of a professional theatre. But despite sterling efforts on the part of director Paul Kerryson, the performers are simply not up to the task in hand. Like many young student actors they have energy and enthusiasm in abundance and indeed, Kerryson makes full use of this, even enhancing it by providing them all with radio microphones to boost the sound.
And in many ways performances are slick – they all snapped in and out of their routines while scarcely missing a beat. Added to which they all seemed to know exactly what they should be doing –everything that a director could do had been done.
Where it fell down, however, was in the areas which a professional actor takes for granted: voice and movement, characterization, gesture and focus. The students simply had not received sufficient actor training to sustain the performances at the level to which they aspired.
Voices were not sufficiently flexible, words routinely swallowed, falling cadences abundant. Movements became repetitive and overdone – every phrase was accompanied by an illustrative gesture.
But the aspect of greatest weakness was in characterization. Berkoff says in his introduction to the play that the acting should smack of danger – but it didn’t. Certainly there was a great deal of shouting, screaming and spitting but the impression was of a nice group of middle-class youngsters playing at being baddies. Rather than feeling threatened, I found myself thinking, “Ah, bless”.
Cast: Sylv: Kara John, Dad: Matt Forey, Les: Douglas Deans, Mum: Rob Callery, Mike: James Coldrick.
Director: Paul Kerryson, Assistant Director: Toni Martell, Lighting: Ziggy Jacobs, Sound: Simon Maloney, Video: Dan Davie, Simon Maloney, Julia Wills, Martin Young, Costumes: Siobhan Boyd, Photography: Julia Wills, Deputy Stage Manager: Katie Browning, Production Electrician: Chris Flux, Lighting Programmer: Rob Newbould, Technical Crew: Jamie Smith, Matt Atfield, Nicola Shepard, David Hately, Nigel Vincent, Joe Simons, John Valentine, Rehearsal Photography: Pamela Raith, Production Photography: Darren Cresswell