Just Do It

Sat 25th February 2012

reviews

Helen Catt

at 01:44 on 26th Feb 2012

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“Just Do It” chose a difficult subject to portray. Unfortunately, I don't think it always succeeded in pulling it off. The stylised monologues, used in moderation, would have been effective in showing the turbulent emotions of the main character. However, by the middle of the play, this device was beginning to feel overused. To begin with, the sense of spiralling out of control was tangible. The rhyming, rhythmic, repetitive language helped to create a strange world in which nothing was predictable; the tension was as highly strung as Sophie herself. However, as the play progressed, the plot didn't progress with it. The tension of the early scenes seemed to drop off as the continual monologues became – dare I say it – a little dull. It wasn't until the language became more conversational that the pace began to pick up. The audience, at these points, was forced to read between the regular tropes of conversation to find the deeper meaning behind. To paraphrase Sophie, “It's as much about what you don't say, as what you say”.

For much of the middle section of the play, there was no clear idea about what the main conflict was. The balance between internal and external conflict (with the emphasis heavily on the internal) meant that we were relying too heavily on the likeability of a character who was, in their very nature, not hugely likeable. But in this, the play did well. It captured the selfishness and self-absorption of the depressed person, so wound up in their own world of desperate emotions that the people around become merely another device through which to see the world. The exhaustion of the ones who love Sophie, who are continually forced to face the guilt caused by the inability to help fix her, felt real and raw, and was convincingly acted. So too was the frustration of those whose workload is growing as they are increasingly expected to pick up the slack.

This was an ambitious project. In some respects it worked well. The acting was capable and precise. However, there was never a moment in which I felt truly moved by the performance. With a plot like this, there should have been at least some single moment of comprehension in which we truly understood the character and sympathised with her. However, when that moment came, it felt more like we were being preached to than being invited to share in Sophie's passionate epiphany. This was a pity; this play could have been great, but after it lost its way in the middle, it never quite regained its footing. The monologues told us too much about the characters without ever truly showing them to us, so rather than being friends whom we came to know gradually, they were exhibition pieces with no mystery and very little development. The ending came abruptly and too easily – there was no real sense of the difficulties that must have been involved in bringing about the change in character with which the play ended. In short, this play had more potential than it fulfilled.

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Jason Zhao

at 07:29 on 26th Feb 2012

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We become the masks we wear. Sometimes it is simply better to start wearing another mask. “Just do it” is story of Sophie who despite being a successful surgeon feels the stifling nature of social expectations. The play is an interplay between the familiar conflict of individuality/conformity, and it is a show that tries to express the withering of the individual spirit through the desire to conform. To this end “Just Do It” generally succeeds but unfortunately has a few shortcomings.

What is perhaps unique of the play is both the sheer amount of soliloquy and a rare but not uncommon breaking of the fourth wall during soliloquies. In “Just Do It” characters constantly launch into extended soliloquies and perhaps even the majority of Just Do It’s time is spent on soliloquies. While the writer can be congratulated for a certain elegance in his poetic language, the time spent on soliloquy starts to resemble a public lecture rather than a play. The soliloquy also suffers from a banality of content, and if there is one theme of the character’s dialogue it is lament. Breaking the fourth wall often is sparingly used because of its ramifications to reduce a play’s realness, but here perhaps the director has a few too many giving the play a feeling of inauthenticity. There is a feel that director could have observed the old adage well, “Show not tell.”

Yet despite its faults “Just Do it” manages to accomplish beautifully through a powerful acting ensemble and through a mastery of the structure of the play. The play proceeds in flashbacks, where we slowly know more and more of Sophie’s past. At first we only see Sophie as a surgeon and nothing is known beyond her profession, but only after successful flashbacks and soliloquies do we began to see Sophie as a person. The tension between the social expectations a surgeon faces and our protagonist as an individual become explored through the former’s many effects on Sophie. We see how Sophie’s strong will became the basis of her downfall when she tries to reconcile independence with conformity, the result being a powerful drive to exceed expectations at a dear cost to her. We follow her through her collapse and the subsequent accumulation of perceived failures and her deteriorating social relationships. What each character sees becomes but an image, a mask of another. Sophie’s frustrations increase until she reaches a tipping point, and a resolution is reached when all comes crashing down.

“Just Do It” overall is a good play although certainly many improvements can be made. It is a play that reminds us what we do changes who we are, and sometimes the changes can be deeply unsettling.

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