DTR - Reviews of The Grouch

The Grouch

Thu 21st – Sat 23rd November 2013

reviews

Olivia Scott

at 22:52 on 21st Nov 2013

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Opening night of Ben D’Souza’s modern adaptation of “The Grouch” provided the audience with a light-hearted and refreshing break from the gloomy weather of the North-East. The play marked a pleasant surprise from what the title lead us to expect. Afterwards, I felt less grouchy and instead filled with glee. Within the privacy of Fountains Hall each audience member was confronted with taboo subjects. The ones we all think, yet feel are too unacceptable to say out loud. That is precisely what I loved about it so much. Each character related to that someone we all know. Be it, the alluring Celia who gets all the guys despite her constant game playing and manipulation. Or instead “nice guy” Phil who doesn’t have much luck with the ladies but it all works out for him in the end.

Tyler Rainford played the role of Alan fabulously, forcing the audience to like him even though they know they should not. Alan’s brutal honesty transcends today’s socially accepted way of being and it is precisely this which makes him so likeable. His sudden outbursts of rage and ability to tear people to shreds were hilarious in the gritted-teeth sort of way. He personifies the guy we all hate to love, so infuriating yet you envy him because of his honesty.

Fay (Olivia Race) despite not having a major role, stole the show. Her stage presence was brilliant with her animated facial expressions amusing the audience tremendously. The scene with Celia (Beatrice Vincent) in which the two girls participate in a battle of one-upmanship out of who could ‘out-bitch’ the other resulted in sighs of recognition from the female members of the audience who all feel some familiarity from some point in their lives.

It was promising to see that most of the cast were first years, and I am sure they will become familiar names in plays to come, and as an ensemble all the cast members worked incredibly well together. Although intentional, the set was a little unimaginative and some sort of set change could have engaged audience interest further. There were some attempts with technology through the use of a nokia ringtone, however, there was scope for some more sound and lighting transitions.

Despite this, the play’s opening night was engaging and funny. The perfect way to spend a Thursday evening. A top effort from Fountains Theatre Company.

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Emily Tilley

at 00:33 on 22nd Nov 2013

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It is certainly a difficult task to review a play which gives such a scathing yet comically truthful portrayal of a reviewer. Nevertheless, I shall risk falling into the traps of human nature explored by Fountain Theatre Company’s ‘The Grouch’, and will endeavour neither to be a falsely flattering Celia, nor an overly critical Alan.

‘The Grouch’ was certainly entertaining and enjoyable, and at times was excellent. However, there were also moments in which small errors and inconsistencies detracted from the overall energy and humour of the performance. The actors’ delivery of the witty rhyming couplets was consistently impressive and amusing, only disrupted by some moments where lines were forgotten. However, these incidents were recovered from very well, and will no doubt be smoothed out in later performances. I also feel that more attention should be paid to blocking (a pet peeve of mine), as there were several instances in which the audience was left unable to see all of the actors in the cramped conditions onstage. While this isn’t a huge error, it is nevertheless distracting and lends an element of awkwardness to scenes which would otherwise have been high points of comedy.

The acting, however, was of a high standard. Tyler Rainford’s portrayal of the painfully honest and cynical Alan was both convincing and highly entertaining. On a few occasions I feel he came rather too close to slapstick, but these moments were few and far between, and on the whole his balance between comic physicality and subtlety of delivery was excellent. His performance was particularly impressive in his first scene with Orville (Joe Stanton), in which both actors upped the energy of the play and reacted to one another with excellent comic timing and well developed characterisation.

Beatrice Vincent’s Celia was the most consistent of the performances, portraying an immensely funny and contradictory character with a subtlety and conviction which made all of her scenes engaging and believable. I was also very impressed by Olivia Race’s Fay, who provided a very funny contrast to Celia, with her bitter prudishness thinly disguising her judgemental nature.

Heather Urquhart (Eileen) and Bart Edge (Phil) had a sweet side story of their own. Eileen was endearing and Phil was earnest, in a romantic parallel to Alan and Celia’s turbulent relationship. Although both characters were convincing, I feel that Phil was rather too neutral at times, and could have benefited from some understated forcefulness in his debates with Alan.

Lord Arne (Ben Bowers) and Chris (Alex Tansey) were an amusing pair, and successfully portrayed the foppish socialites battling for Celia’s affections. However, some of their interactions were rather confusing, and it was difficult to tell the two apart. Therefore, an effort should be made to make their introductions clear to the audience when they first appear.

Bates (Viresh Joshi), despite limited stage time, was an amusing presence in the background of several scenes, and, with a simplicity of facial expressions and tone of voice, created a character who was underappreciated by his fashionable employer, and weary of her foolish suitors.

It was a shame, therefore, that a play which had so many positive aspects ended in a manner which left me bemused. Perhaps it is the romantic in me, or perhaps I missed something, but the conclusion that Celia and Alan would not, after all, get married seemed somewhat odd. However, this is an issue within the play itself. The production in question was, overall, very enjoyable, but could benefit from some fine tuning. I have no doubt, however, that some of its problems will be ironed out in upcoming performances. If you are looking for a relaxing evening of light comedy, this play will certainly not disappoint.

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