18B

Fri 1st – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Georgina Wilson

at 19:34 on 15th Aug 2014

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18B is a character study exercise on a carousel. Three women from different walks of life rotate in a triangular position around the stage, taking it in turns to sit front centre in the chair where they are interrogated by Lyon-Jones (Aaron Tej) and Thompson (Ben Hollands). Minimalist? Yes. Successful? Not entirely.

The exercise itself certainly highlights the very competent acting of the cast; particular credit goes to Johanner Maver, (Chloe Bichford). She skilfully portrays a German-born secretary without resorting to cliché in her manner, unlike some of the other accents which occasionally drift into something which sounds like a send-up of an Agatha Christie film. Johanner’s reasons for remaining in England – “it’s my home” – are either extremely dubious or a testament to the right of people to live where they choose. Like the whole play, she remains an unresolved entity.

This is because, essentially, nothing happens. The problem with this cliff-hanger plot is that rather than leaving us intrigued I’m merely taken aback by the abrupt ending. I feel as though I haven’t got my money's-worth of the script, as though there should be a second half that I haven’t quite got time to go to.

Some of the most interesting scenes play out between the two men who are in the powerful position of asking questions. The script creates a tense dynamic between the two who struggle for good-cop bad-cop position whilst treading on each others’ authoritative toes. The characters are well-written and believable, but neither are particularly likeable. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but given the deliberate ambiguity of the three women being interviewed, I would have liked to have been able to root for or actively dislike one of their questioners.

Even the odd scene between the two men is not enough to break up the interrogatory scenes, whose repetitiveness becomes almost monotonous. The technical side of things doesn’t do much to inspire greatly – lighting and set are all functional but nothing to write home about.

18B has received a lot of hype – the theatre was nearly full when I went mid-festival. The script does deserve acclaim, but bizarrely is most impressive as an example of good dialogue rather than anything that should go on stage. Ideal, in fact, for an English literature lesson.

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Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 10:37 on 16th Aug 2014

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This show was full of an authenticity that made it feel like we had been transported back to wartime Britain, from the flawless accents of the cast to the set, which was completely fitting, but not over the top.

This innovative script, by Jake Leonard, showed us a different side to the traditional soldier-based war dramas that are in abundance at the moment. We were given a glimpse behind the scene into the office of Mr Lyon-Jones (Aaron Tej) and Mr Thompson (Ben Hollands), whose job it is to interview three female prisoners and make a judgement on how much of a danger they pose to society.

Under the defence regulation 18B, an act that was passed during the war, which made it possible for people to be detained and imprisoned without a trial, three women were interviewed separately before our eyes, in an intriguing and comical exploration of morality and bureaucracy.

Everyone on stage gave a sterling performance. Tej commanded the stage and the interview room simultaneously, and had a great repartee with his subordinate, Thompson, whose deadpan delivery made the audience giggle continuously. This also meant that when he softened slightly as he conversed with ditzy actress Millicent Bowe (Amelia Gann), he became the most endearing and likeable character.

Chloe Bichford and Lucy Bromillow in the roles of Johanna Mauer and Violet Mortimer respectively, both put on a great show. Bichford was completely convincing as the German national, and the audience genuinely believed her protests of innocence. Bromillow’s uptight, sassy character was a joy to watch, but her sarcasm and quick wit did not prevent a more human side to her coming through as she spoke about her children.

In the competitive world of the Fringe this show did not offer any particularly shocking or innovative staging techniques, although it was all done well. The plot was not quick or full of action, but maintained a rhythmic and measured pace throughout. The script lacks a climactic plot point, and portrays what is genuinely just a day in the office for the characters, but is nevertheless funny, involving and sentimental. The moments of flirtation were interesting, and the cast were not afraid to allow the odd long silence, which built a surprising sense of sexual tension. A cast and crew of very talented people, this is definitely one to watch.

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