Review – Love and Information, BA Acting Third Year Students at the University of Northampton, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 26th May 2023

Love and InformationThe 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; Archy Mackillopsome 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.

Charlie FranklinUnder 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; Will Merryleeswith 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. Katie BlundellBut 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.

Review – Silenced, Lavender Productions, Flash Fringe Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year BA Acting Students, Northampton Playhouse, 31st March 2023

SilencedThis is how Silenced is described online: “Four friends play a game with a Ouija board that takes a turn for the worse when the spirit they summon fights back.”

Blake OliverWhat happened to Emma? Ava, Noah, Isabelle and Robin decide to hold a séance with a Ouija board to see if they can summon up her presence. Isabelle thinks it’s going to be hilarious, Ava is terrified and wants no part in it, whilst Noah and Robin turn up for the banter and the munchies. At first it’s all light-hearted, with Isabelle probably pushing the planchette that picks out the letters on the board. But then there are noises… Erin Hamiltonand lights flicker… and suddenly it’s not so light-hearted anymore.

There’s no doubt that this is a spooky production, with definite scary moments! All four of the characters become zombified at times, as the spirit of Emma takes over their bodies. Shannon LambertThe changes of facial expression and voice for when each person was affected worked very well, and there was quite a lot of stage violence/combat which was for the most part extremely effective. In particular, Blake Oliver as Noah was an especially scary zombie as he hurled the other characters around the stage with effortless ease. Erin Hamilton was very convincing as the reticent Ava, Will Merryleesand Shannon Lambert was excellent as the bossy Isabelle. Will Merrylees played the oafish Robin as a fine specimen of toxic masculinity.

Given that it’s not a long play, I found it a little repetitive as each character goes through the Emma-cycle, without much being added to our understanding of the situation with each one. I also thought that some of the banter between the two guys was a bit more in-your-face than I expected – even though it was perfectly realistic. Additionally, congratulations to all the cast for carrying on regardless in the face (or rather the sound!) of an unexpected fire alarm; they didn’t flinch an inch. And I really enjoyed the “possessed” curtain call!