"People, Places & Things" Wednesday 10 July 2019

The young company of King Ed's students have taken on a play that looks at self-medicating and addiction, and this is a huge undertaking for ones so young. I had wondered if their age would impact on my enjoyment of the piece, but blimey! Did they do it justice or what?!

The play opens with "Emma", an actress, on stage in the role of Nina in "The Seagull". She is clearly intoxicated, having consumed a cocktail of alcohol and drugs, prescription and illegal. The precise recipe of this cocktail we learn later. "Emma" is played by six different actors, with Livvi Parsons taking on the role to open the play. She sets the bar high for the actors who take on the role after her. Acting drunk is exceptionally difficult to do well, and it's a very fine line between overplaying, tipping into farce, and making it believable. Livvi skilfully maintained that balance.

For a play with such serious subject matter, there are many darkly comic moments, and the students clearly understood the text very well, as every one of them displayed a strong sense of comic timing.

The play highlights not only addiction from the perspective of the "addict" but also how this affects all of those around them, beautifully demonstrated in a dreadful phone exchange between "Emma" and her mother. This theme is repeated in the tale told by Foster, played by Ethan Wood (also by Elana Scriven), where he describes his relationship with his beloved dog, who literally bites the hand that feeds her.

There is no moment of "redemption" for "Emma". Her successful completion of the programme and gaining her hard-earned letter of affirmation from the Doctor, excellently portrayed by Jennifer Thompson-Chatburn, and her apology to her parents, is met with the accusation thrown at her by her mother of now being "self-righteous and boring". She's damned if she uses and damned if she doesn"t.

The "reveal" of the multiple "Emma's" was very well executed, and left me wondering if the cast were also contortionists! The switching between "Emma's" before our eyes was slick and seamless, which is no mean feat, and the choreography of the multiple "Emma's" when they appear together was strong and proved to be visually very effective.

Special mentions go to Alex Gale in the role of Dad, who also played the role of Konstantin in the opening scene of The Seagull. It was a pleasure to see two very different characters from him, showcasing his range as a performer. Rory Richardson as Mark gave us a very convincing Scottish accent and, Aleesha Parsons as Meredith was a joy to watch.

Lighting and sound were particularly effective as were the backstage crew and everyone involved in the bringing on and taking off of set and props were clearly well organised and all scene changes were executed swiftly and flowed smoothly.

Kudos goes to Shaun Passey, who directed with skill and care. This is a difficult piece to attempt and must have been a daunting prospect, but he certainly managed to bring the best out of all of the students.

Having recently read Matt Haig's "Notes on a Nervous Planet", this play resonated. The sense of coping with life by "not feeling too much of anything", of requiring a certain level of "moral ambivalence" to survive the onslaught of the constant bombardment on our senses via media, is very much in our consciousness these days.

But this is juxtaposed with our desire, like "Emma", to live "vividly", and tonight, this young company certainly did just that. Vivid and vibrant and full of so much potential. Huge congratulations to you all!