THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – THE DRUM – 24 August 2019
RUNNING TIME 1 hour 10 minutes – NO INTERVAL
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 21 AUGUST 2018
The Young Company at the Theatre Royal Plymouth like to take a subject and explore it theatrically. Earlier this year they presented their take on what scares us in their show ‘Creep’, this new play, ‘Influence’ looks at the mysterious world of data, subliminal influencing and the power of media companies.
The play by Andy McGregor has been commissioned by a number of theatres and is inspired by the television shows such as ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Black Mirror’ – neither of which I have seen but know of. It was probably written before the recent Netflix documentary ‘The Great Hack’ – which I have seen – with which this also has some crossover.
As a group of youngsters go in search of a missing lad, the looming presence of media organisation ‘DataMine’ both fascinates and disturbs them as they witness mind-manipulation through messages created by monstrous organisation, hidden in messages it transmits.
What follows is a high-octane, high-energy adventure which takes us into mysterious places and deep into the bowels of a branch of Lidl!
The setting is simple, but very effective and the movement of cubes creates different shapes. It is virtually all white and so provides a screen for the very smart projections produced by Matt Hoyle – these really elevate the piece and make it almost cinematic. The lighting by John Purkis is also vital and exciting and adds to the filmic feel.
The programme doesn’t name the actors – something of a pity I think – but they all throw themselves into the production with immense amounts of enthusiasm and their obvious enjoyment of performing in the piece is not difficult to detect.
I do, however, have a major issue. I found it almost impossible to follow what was going on as I could not hear the words – I don’t think there is anything wrong with my hearing. There are a number of issues I noted. The opening throbbing music was possibly too loud and the tone appeared to match some of the actors voices and so obliterated them. Young people do not have the vocal power that adults do and so speaking up leads to shouting which distorts the voice. Lines were spoken so fast, over each other, from different parts of the auditorium, frantic shouting and screaming the words out – all added up to a raft of reasons why the plot of the story became submerged. I may be alone, but, by the end, I had little understanding of what had really happened.
This is a huge shame and I don’t want to dent the obvious talent that the Young Company possesses, but some of the basic skills of acting need revisiting. It may have been a case of first night excitement, but a more measured delivery and clearer enunciation will go a long way to ensuring people will understand what is happening. I hope that the Director, Lucy Hirst, will be able to offer some words to ensure the story comes through better.
‘Influence’ has some big things to say and the Young Company cannot be criticised for their passion, commitment and enthusiasm, but a few fundamentals need to be addressed. I love watching this Company, but was disappointed with some important aspects of this production.
CAST – MEMBERS OF THE YOUNG COMPANY
WRITER – ANDY MCGREGOR
DIRECTOR – LUCY HIRST
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR – MICH SANDERSON
DESIGNER – LOUISE WORRALL
LIGHTING DESIGN – JOHN PURKIS
SOUND DESIGN – HOLLY HARBOTTLE
AV DESIGN – MATT HOYLE
Commissioned by Derby Theatre, Dundee REP, Leeds Playhouse, Northern Stage, Royal & Derngate and Theatre Royal Plymouth