The second of the three Third Year Students’ plays at the Royal and Derngate is Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, a series of 49 interconnected playlets, with some leeway given to individual productions as to the order in which they are presented. Some of them are long enough to give you a full sense of narrative and characterisation; some are so short that they are barely a few words delivered within five seconds. The result is an intriguing blend of human situations, presented in an apparently (but not entirely) random order; there are plenty of laugh out loud moments, plus a few tragic scenarios thrown into the mix.
Under Barbara Houseman’s direction, the ensemble of ten deliver a smart, snappy, constantly refreshing show that holds your attention from start to finish. Everyone gives a great performance; with so many entrances and exits, and costume and character changes, this is a hard show to get absolutely right – but the cast nailed it. A particular challenge in this play is that there are so many conversations where a line is left dangling because the speaker is either being interrupted or can’t quite find le mot juste. But everyone pretty much kept the conversational pace going in all their scenes, which really helped keep the show moving.
Highlights for me were Archy Mackillop telling his secret, Charlie Franklin as the spoilt brat who won’t say sorry, Saim Shafique explaining why his dreams gave him carte blanche to have an affair, Will Merrylees showing off his language skills, and pretty much everything that Katie Blundell and Sophia Foster did. Indeed Ms Foster can turn a characterisation around on a sixpence; always delivering with superb control and wry humour. But the entire cast contributed to the success of this production – congratulations to you all.
Not much more to say about this show really – if you managed to see it, you had a treat!
P. S. The Martin Lawrence Acting Awards are presented every year to the best Actress and Actor. My choice for Best Actress for the year would be Sophia Foster.
This is how The Little Princess is described online: “The story begins with a planet. A planet so small you need two telescopes to see. It is the story of an Astronaut, a Princess, and a Sunflower. The story of a world in peril, of problems unsolvable. Of cowardice and cynicism, and of courage and compassion. Of talking and of listening.”
A bedtime story comes to life as four youngsters are told the tale of an Astronaut who lands on a distant planet, where he meets the Little Princess. But she is worried, because the Sunflower, that bestows all the light and heat on the planet is clearly suffering – and she wants to know why and how the Sunflower can be made better again. As they travel around all the poles of the little planet, they meet the Minister, the Chairman and the Scientist; but will the Little Princess and the Astronaut find the solution to the Sunflower’s problems?
A thoroughly relevant story that highlights ecological issues such as limited resources, blame-shifting politicians, unregulated industry and ignored experts, all told through the rather charming device of a children’s story, presented with endearing naivete and an excellent sense of humour. I really appreciated how the Minister’s response when he was cornered about his hypocrisy and inactivity was to blame the foreigner – where have we heard that before?! The five characters were all very believable, even though they were deliberately presented as over-the-top stereotypes, all of which added to the jollity of the piece.
Connor Dadge has great stage presence and was excellent as the bullish Minister, eager for photo opportunities, and even more eager to take no responsibility for anything. Hannes Knischewski’s scientist was appropriately mad and gabbling, and reminded me fondly of the days of Magnus Pyke (Google him if you don’t know!) Sophia Foster brought a wide-eyed innocence and simplicity to the role of the Little Princess, Saim Shafique gave a good performance as the Astronaut – I loved his watered down expletives, very funny – and Alan Jagiello was very convincing as the business-fixated manufacturer of everything.
Funny, lively, and very amusingly staged, this was an excellent way of conveying a serious problem through humour. Great work!