East 15 Acting School MA Acting Showcase review – ‘thoughtful acting’ at the Duchess Theatre
This very large showcase (46 students) includes 21 men, many of whom are pleasingly strong. It is also good to see mixed ages and nationalities among the group, although we would have been able to see more of what they can do if the group had been halved with both sections offering a separate showcase. As it is we see each actor only once in a duologue or three-person scene. That means they’re denied the opportunity to demonstrate versatility, which is a pity.
Lauren Drennan and Gus Kennedy Jacob open the showcase with a snatch (everything in this 21-scene showcase is, perforce, very short) of Alan Ayckbourn’s Private Fears in Public Places. They are discussing residential properties but actually trying to get together. The timing of the comedy works well. Drennan is suitably, gauchely unsubtle and Jacob gets the awkwardness nicely.
JP Conway is a powerful actor who listens attentively – almost always the key to successful performance. He and Hannah Abbot excel in Two by Jim Cartwright because they use silence and tension so well as his character’s demands become increasingly unreasonable.
There is admirable work from Meg Lake too in part of Joanna Murray-Smith’s Honour with the much younger Helena Devereux. The husband of the eponymous Honour (Lake) is having an affair with Devereux’s character. Lake, who has fine bone structure and a deep voice articulated after the style of Felicity Kendal or Celia Imrie, has considerable presence.
One of the funniest scenes in the showcase comes from Toby Osmond, Jessica Hassan and Megan Blowey. We’re in The One by Vicky Jones, and Hassan’s character has called on the other two. Much comedy ensues with all three playing well off the others and Osmond being especially truthful and attentive as he empathises with Hassan while Blowey, hearty and clumsy, runs hilariously in and out making tea.
Penelope Skinner’s The Village Bike often gets into showcases. It usually works and this is no exception. Chris Szuca is the plumber and Carol Ellis the desperately randy housewife he is working for. Ellis, in particular, manages the humour of the double entendres expertly and is a convincing actor. Szuca plays engagingly against her.
The end of the showcase brings unexpected fun. The final scene is from Joe Penhall’s Birthday in which a pregnant man (Eddie, played with pained earnestness by John Christopher) is about to give birth. Two women are less than sympathetic. Heidi Niemi is very funny as the ascerbic no-nonsense midwife and Jennie Rawling is detached as Eddie’s wife. Throughout the curtain call for the other 42 students the scene continues behind with a lot of anguished yelling. When these three come forward finally for their own curtain, Christopher is holding a baby. Showcases tend not to be strong on originality but this is an imaginative little joke.
On the whole, then, this is an enjoyable, quite well thought-out showcase with a reasonably eclectic and imaginative choice of pieces with plenty of comedy and without too much expletive-hurling anger.
Casting director Irene East chooses Carol Ellis and Toby Osmond
Venue: the Duchess Theatre, WC2
Date: September 16
Director: Andrea Brooks
Students: Hannah Abbott, James Abery, Claudia Archer, Alex Arksen, Andrew Barton, James Beaumont, Megan Blowey, Laurence Bourne, Calum Bowie, Harrison Bowles, Jack Carmichael, John Christopher, JP Coway, Helena Devereux, Lauren Drennan, Madeleine Dunne, Felix Dunning, Korrina Dunton, Carol Ellis, John Faulds, Matthew Forey, Alexander Grant, Godfrey Guinan, Jessica Hassan, Erin Hunnes, Amy Liette Hunter, Eleanor Ireland, Conor Keene, Chris Kendrick, Gus Kennedy Jacob, Meg Lake, Jessica McClellan, Blain Neale, Jess Neale, Heidi Niemi, Toby Osmond, Isobel Pilkington, Jennie Rawling, Kat Ronson, Joanne Sealey, Hannah Sinclair-Robinson, Chris Szuca, D.J. Taylor, Rebecca Tubridy, Jesselyn Verity, Vicky Winning
Running time: 55 mns
Verdict: Some thoughtful acting