Keep It Casual

Tue 25th October 2011

reviews

Lucy Oliver

at 00:39 on 26th Oct 2011

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I hope that those reading this review followed the trail of post it notes on Tuesday evening down to the Undercroft for another chance to experience Rachel Nwokoro’s inspired production.

Performed in the basement of the Hild Bede theatre, ‘Keep it Casual’ was by no means stifled by the somewhat obscure underground setting. Instead the intensity of this very intimate venue amplified the stirring interaction of different characters and the careful interweaving of their stories. The play itself was a hands-on inspection of seven familiar individuals, all stereotypes in modern society, from Lily Drake’s chavvy slut Kat to Will Hannam’s pensive alcoholic Wayne.

The characters were very believable, similar to the effect seen in early episodes of ‘the Inbetweeners’, depicting life and individuals in a highly realistic way against a fun background of sharp humour. The pair of loitering teenagers were particularly convincing in recreating the awkwardness and boredom of hanging around: drinking, dancing, drugging, anything in an attempt to keep everything casual.

However the depth of the play emerges out of the comic typicality of these characters, exploring the individual underneath the stereotype. Revelations of identity were often divulged in a frenzy of self-discovery and rush of emotion which seemed to surprise the characters themselves. The hush of the audience as the play gathered pace reflected the growing sense of a wealth of feeling behind each character, previously not recognised. Many perhaps were unable to judge whether to laugh or pity the increasingly emotive speeches of the stubborn Kat, or whether to judge or sympathise with Wayne’s struggle to understand his problem.

The audience were brought in close to the action as they followed the cast around the venue, utilising various pieces of contrasting set: from the realistic office cubicle to a giant wall of post it notes. The show skilfully avoided the awkwardness common in other interactive, new-style dramas, whilst maintaining the heightened personal connection such a mingling of ‘stage and stalls’ creates. In this way, no one was left static in this evolving production. The play moved towards a climax both in an emotive sense as well as literally, the audience encircled by the actors to great effect at the end. Such movement helped to merge together the different scenes of characters and gloss over the occasionally tenuous links between the plotlines, faltering only with the hesitations of an indoctrinated audience to the conventions of typical theatre.

This was not your average Assembly Rooms drama but rather a modern take on present day stereotypes: how complexity of character is often brushed aside, escapism, imagination and aspiration continually ‘underrated’ by society. Nwokoro and her cast were keeping it casual only on the surface, yet at the same time the production continued to make the audience crack up in this dramatic kick-start to HBT’s Autumn season.

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Comments

Michael McLauchlan; 27th Oct 2011; 09:58:21

Could not agree more - the play meshes comic relief with ominous and macabre events, invoking chills and laughter in the audience. It was the combination of a skilled playwright and a talented cast that made the experimental piece of theatre so effective to a modern audience. Perhaps what I most enjoyed was the flexible staging (typical trait of Contemporary Theatre) together with the overlapping dialogue. Enjoyed every minute of it!

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