Sunday, 18 November 2012

Blow Out! - review

Written by: Christianna Mason (@Christianna_L_M)

Etcetera Theatre, London

I have nothing against farce but when you try to mix it with serious, heavy drama scenes (thick with clichéd lines and speeches) the result is somewhat cringe worthy. It starts out as a potentially innovative production with an interesting opening sequence and a curious premise but then spirals into a weird muddle of styles. The wide variety of genres used is simply confusing.

Beginning with some audience participation, which is never fully used again, we are introduced to the narrator, Trent (Sam Buitekant), who shines in his cheeky laddish role. He charms his way through the evening, slowly getting all the characters drunk on the dangerous ‘Blow Out’ concoction with amusing consequences; and this means the actors have to sustain their inebriated state for the rest of the show. Not ideal when the mother, Lorraine (Maggie Turner) has to have a serious discussion about her crumbling relationship and narcotics addiction to her daughter, Denise (Esther Shanson). The group of friends, all in their late 20’s, are at Denise’s 30th birthday party. She has high hopes of it being a sophisticated soirée, what with them all becoming young adults, but with a gate-crashing mum, ‘Blow Out’ alcohol and some wild characters the party soon turns into a chaotic shambles.  This is supposed to be about the fun rejection of expected maturity but the immaturity is so overly exaggerated that one would think it was a teenager’s birthday party, not a young adults’.

Along with Trent, Tom Worsley fairs well in his role as Lewis, receiving big laughs, as the painfully socially awkward brother of Denise. Unfortunately, direction doesn’t seem to be consistent as the rest of the cast come off as odd caricatures. The actors try valiantly, in spite of the text but with its constant twists and turns it’s hard to keep up. For example, the mother has a remarkably speedy change of heart when her daughter comes out as gay. From storming off “to think about it”, five minutes later she then welcomes her with open arms and they proceed to attempt at a serious heart to heart despite the embarrassing, soap opera like script.

The lighting design was simple and used effectively, but the set design is completely out of place. It has a folky, simplistic aesthetic with forest paintings adorning the walls – sweet, but this has no correlation whatsoever to the story, which is set in a small apartment. There’s a live musician on stage which at times adds nice comic relief but isn’t used enough to merit his stage time.

There are gems that could be explored such as the synchronised movements from the choreography at the beginning and the narration from Trent (Sam Buitekant) but the text was too stilted and there were far too many clashing ideas. 

This production runs until 1 December 2012. 
@EtceteraTheatre @fizzbangers

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