DTR - Reviews of MOJO

MOJO

Thu 27th – Sat 29th October 2011

reviews

Grace Catherine Cheatle

at 02:27 on 28th Oct 2011

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From the instant this production of MOJO begins, one can see why it has been described as 'Beckett on speed'. The opening scene of Silver Johnny – played by Ben Anscombe – establishes the play as one of high energy and palpable tension from the off. The fast pulsating music and flashing lights, paralleling the mindset of our character and mirroring his forceful sparring, simultaneously ready both Johnny and the audience, for the performance ahead.

The rather minimal set does not immediately create the 1950's atmosphere one would hope for, however, this is soon eclipsed by the quick-paced duologue and on-stage chemistry of Potts and Sweets, played by Gareth Davies and George Haynes. The pair clearly relish the crude lines within the script which is, in turn, lapped up by the audience. Their comedic double act frequently provides light-hearted breaks from what can at times be a heavy-going production; their synchronised actions during the impassioned 'Uncle Tommy' speech by Skinny, performed by Xander Drury, demonstrates not only their close relationship, but a directorial understanding of the need for occasional physically grounded humour.

The whole cast impressively maintain their cockney accents throughout, however in a play where words are so vital to the plot's progression, there are moments where snatches of dialogue are lost due to the general speed of the piece. To juxtapose, the presence of silence also plays an all-important role in the emotional atmosphere of the play; unfortunately within this performance, a beautifully touching moment of the character Baby receiving shocking news about his father was shattered by muttering backstage. In a similar way, important one-on-one scenes and conversations are lost to a portion of audience members, and mood can inadvertently fluctuate, particularly in the final scenes, due to abrupt lighting changes.

As an ensemble, the cast work remarkably well together. They sustain sensitivity to the script and honest depiction of character until the curtain falls; Guy Hughes' performance of Baby is highly compelling as the audience first wonders if his somewhat childlike behaviour is simply a genuine naivety, or more akin to Machiavellian manipulation. As he spirals into his psychological descent, wonderfully in antithesis with the unyielding, silent figure of Mickey (performed by David Stodel) a dark humour becomes more apparent. There is the unsettling knowledge that factions within the group are occurring and as the drugs wear off, the friction between the characters increases, as does the dramatic tension. Finally propelled into the last climactic scene, the ensemble demonstrate once again their exceptional consciousness of the play's gritty subject matter. Both direction and cast have excelled in creating elation and turmoil in what threatens to be a rather cyclical and lagging script; for this they must be highly, highly commended.

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Carrie Anne Walton

at 12:00 on 28th Oct 2011

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I went into the theatre not knowing what to expect of this play and over two and a half hours later I left having been truly convinced of the wealth of talent at Durham University and talked about the play with my other half throughout the entire forty-five minute drive home. I was well and truly bowled over.

The play, about the happenings during a night in a Chelsea club opens with the jittery drugged up comedy duo Sweets and Potts (played by Haynes and Davies) in what could be mistaken as a stage double act. The dynamic between the two of them was unique and although I got the strong impression that they fluffed their lines more than a handful of times the way they performed covered over any mistakes with effortless ease. They propped each other up and talked over each other the way people do in real life which gave an extra dimension to their performance. The way they darted about the stage and kept flicking their noses made their drugged ramblings seem all the more convincing.

As the story began to take shape we met more of the cast; Skinny, the panicky cloakroom boy who gets picked on by the boss's son (possibly not without just cause, I couldn’t quite decide). Drury is fantastic. This fresher of the bunch has real promise in my eyes and I’ll be keeping an eye out for him again. Mickey; the tough right-hand dapper dan man in a three piece suit. Stodel brings a certain Vinnie Jones type of cockney authority to the role and is such a convincing hard-man I’d doubt whether his mouth could actually form into a smile. And last but not least there’s Baby. Hughes is also fantastic and lends an almost doped up serenity to the stage which provides a wonderful juxtaposition to the slapstick stylings of Sweets and Potts.

The pace of the play seems a little uneven. The first half seems to take a while to gather pace in contrast to the second half where we know something’s clearly building and then are hit with the big reveal and the clumsy aftermath of it all.

Directorially the play seems nice and simple. The stage is always spaced well by the ensemble and no one actor overshadows another. The troupe clearly gets on well offstage too and that’s evident in the way they all work together and bring a certain reality to the performance. The tension created by certain characters at certain times has you on the edge of your seat and holding your breath and the guttural language is intrinsic to that tension.

To say this play has been staged in only two weeks is utterly mind boggling. For each of those actors to have memorised a two hour long dialogue-driven play is astonishing enough in itself, but for them to play it out so convincingly is just immense.

Please, if you only go and see one DST play this year, let Mojo be it.

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