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ALRA Graduate Actors Showcase 2014

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    A succinct showcase from this year’s graduates at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, but by no means slight, with performances of a selection of relatively uncommon pieces to its industry audience. Katie Redford‘s opening is so bold that it might be imagined she is about to welcome the audience but of course it’s a rather witty monologue from Casey Kurtti’s Catholic School Girls. Redford’s strong delivery and grasp of the comic subtext give the piece mileage but it’s always good to see contrasts and collaboration at these showcases. With Rosie Akerman, Redford proves an equally dramatic actor as the two negotiate the complex relationship between teenage sisters Affy and Di from Tanika Gupta’s Inside Out.

    Taking centre stage, Mitchell Snell immediately establishes his ballsy, no-nonsense persona for Carol Harrison’s Mod-musical All or Nothing. Both playful and aggressive, the monologue is thoroughly accessible, and contrasts in tone rather well with his scene partner Lara Bell. Here, Snell is much more subdued and hesitant, and it’s Bell as the forthright Emily, from Hayley Squires’ Vera, Vera Vera, who is laying down the law. This is a first-rate pairing, with both actors comprehending the subtleties of the text and shading their acting with moments of frailty and longing.

    Morag McCulloch seems a little short-changed with her monologue, which seems too short to establish character and content clearly. Fortunately, the actor’s choice of duologue is the marvellous Bea by Mick Gordon, in which she captures absolutely the frustrations and foibles of the young woman with MS. Teamed effectively with Matt Lynch as Ray, it’s a bitter-sweet scene that serves both actors well and sits nicely opposite the drug-fuelled manic delivery of Lynch’s solo spot from Colder than Here.

    Andrew Lambe appears to be marked for comedy, with both his physical and comic delivery switched on full-throttle in Tom Wells’ Notes for First Time Astronauts. It’s clever, thoughtful work, but it comes as quite a surprise at how accomplished this actor is in his deeply contrasting duologue, After the End by Dennis Kelly. Opposite an equally talented Isla Coulter, the two bravely negotiate achingly long pauses and merge dialogue to create a richly textured piece of naturalistic theatre that does credit to both. Coulter’s pale, dramatic physical appearance lends an ephemeral quality to her unsettling monologue as amoral teen Jo from Gilt.

    If there is an aggressive theme running through the men’s monologues, then Aidan Casey pitches his scene perfectly. It’s a slow but definite build, from fairly likeable jack-the-lad to frightening violent psychopath in one speech. It’s paced well and contrasts perfectly with his scene as the gentle, slightly shy Scott in Gary Owen’s Love Steals Us From Loneliness. One has to admire the ease with which Lucy Atkins, as Catrin, squats on stage, but the exchange between Atkins and Casey is utterly engaging, and proves to be the most satisfying duologue of this showcase.

    No One Sees the Video by Martin Crimp introduces Anna Bonnett as the recently jilted housewife and Lydia Robinson trying desperately to engage her in a retail survey. At face value it is a scene that gains lots of laughs, and both actors work with this so as not to destroy the delicate pathos of Crimp’s writing. Bonnett’s Strip soliloquy – an eager actor recalling a humiliating audition – also shows how this actor has a keen eye for subtext and how it can inform and greatly improve a performance.

    Stepping in at short notice, Bonnett provides support to Samantha Loxley in a scene from Henna Night by Amy Rosenthal. An oddly uneven performance, but compelling nonetheless, with Loxley absolutely riveting as Ros, confronting her boyfriend’s ex with the questionable intention of developing a friendship. In sharp contrast, Loxley seems less connected to the character from Jack Thorne’s Bunny, delivering the laughs and a strong Essex accent, but on the whole it seems much less satisfying.

    Expert’s Choice: Sandra Thompson-Quartey, artistic director of Writer’s Avenue Theatre Company, chooses Katie Redford and Andrew Lambe

    Paul Vale

    • Tristan Bates, London
    • October 15
    • Director: Iain Patterson
    • Cast: Katie Redford, Rosie Akerman, Mitchell Snell, Lara Bell, Matt Lynch, Morag McCulloch, Andrew Lambe, Isla Coulter, Aidan Casey, Lucy Atkins, Anna Bonnett, Lydia Robinson, Samantha Loxley
    • Running time: 1hr
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