Thursday, 24 November 2011

A Matter of Life and Death - review

Written by: Dombo (@DomOJFryer)

Where's Dom gone?
RHUL Student's Union
Was Dom fond?

You would be forgiven for thinking that you've travelled back in time.

The impressive 12th (Yes, 12th) RHUL production in which director and designer Oliver Gordon features immediately thrusts you into this mindset, as the sound, lights and music all team up to transform the SU main hall from what is essentially a school assembly hall, into 1940's Britain. Having had the pleasure myself of working with Gordon, one thing I knew – and expected – was a spectacle. I was not disappointed.

But let's not give all the credit to this lovely young fellow; the acting is superb, with Ross Virgo (Hushabye Mountain, Spring Awakening AND THE RAG PANTO) showing off his considerable talent and versatility. It is not very often you find a man who in his limited number of University shows has played such a varying degree of characters. With his portrayal of Peter, an RAF pilot who survives jumping out his plane without a parachute (N.B - on account of fog preventing a Norwegian Magician from finding him. Seriously, bare with it, it gets better), we are taken through a treacherous journey of emotion, which has much of the audience in tears. The supporting cast is excellent too; look out, Hollowegians, for Stanley Eldridge, whose RHUL debut is marked impressively as Dr Frank Reeves, and will be entertaining the minds of pre-casting directors for the remainder of his stay here. Hollie Goodall is wonderful as June, Tanya Reynolds once again impresses as Chief Recorder, and I found myself saying “Classic Jamie Moore” time and time again at his representation of Dr McEwen. Despite this, the very same Jamie Moore gives a very authoritative and stern depiction of the Judge of the Heavens, showing that he has more than just a comedic element in his armoury.

As always, Gordon had a massive crew backstage supporting him, and costume mistress Sarah Yardley must surely be proud of her efforts in this department; each and every costume was either authentic 1940's attire, or as convincing as you can be, when putting on a show involving Shakespeare and Nurses from the afterlife. So impressed was I by her work, I decided to go out and buy an Aviator jacket – and it's bloody warm.

Now, it may seem that I'm waxing lyrical about this production, so as I am running out of word count, I must mention the negatives; be mindful, Mr Gordon, of the acoustics in the SU main hall. Although much of the diction is perfect, there are moments which are lost, down to the sheer fact that projection is not enough. In addition to this, 3 minutes of dialogue at the start are barely audible, due to the overpowering nature of the sound effects and band (who, as far as I could tell, didn't put a foot wrong). It also seemed odd that the three strong singers didn't feature as much in the second half, perhaps a premeditated decision by Gordon to put more focus on the dialogue. Regardless, an impressive effort by Gordon and his crew, further enhancing this boy's reputation as the Conor McPherson of our time. That would be a lovely headline quote. I coined it. Kneehigh first performed A Matter of Life and Death in 2007. Four years on, I for one am glad that it has been brought back to life.

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