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Birmingham School of Acting MA Acting Showcase 2015

showcase Photo: Shutterstock

Short but most definitely to the point, the BSA MA Acting showcase delivers a fresh selection of diverse solo performances and challenging duologues, thoughtfully staged by director Lise Olson. Dennis Kelly’s After The End provides Matthew Bretton and Natalie Edward-Yesufu with a meaty scene, which steers both actors through a range of emotions as they prepare for the fallout of a nuclear attack. Edward-Yesufu, as Louise, handles the fragmented, slightly panicked dialogue with skill, while Bretton’s Mark is a coiled spring waiting to let loose. Edward-Yesufu further examples her range with the insouciant sophistication of model Paula in a nicely judged moment from Tough Love. Bretton, however, delivers a character extension of sorts, capturing succinctly the fussy optimism of Sam from Lucy Kirwood’s NSFW.

Joe Tandberg and Daisy-May Parsons really bounce off one-another in the scene from While You Lie by Sam Holcroft. May-Parsons successfully tackles a delicate balance of humour in her initial tirade against Tandberg’s sloppy Edward, but the laughs are kept on a tight leash. As the verbal punches are thrown, the scene soon develops its serious edge, with both actors totally in control of mood and pace. May-Parson’s monologue as the snobbish housewife Lane touches on similar territory but this is an actor wisely playing to her strengths rather than narrowing her options.

Another example of this attitude comes from Sophie Handy, who delivers a genuinely touching solo performance as the slightly useless, hopeful surrogate mother. Handy unlocks the pain beneath Ross Howard’s otherwise witty monologue to provide one of the more satisfying pieces of the afternoon. Paired with Frederick Arnot for Gary Owen’s Perfect Match, Handy further demonstrates the importance of subtle comedy behind a dramatic situation. Arnot’s placating Joe is another neatly drawn, believable character study and contrasts profoundly with the bullish, opinionated Philip from Matt Hartley’s Microcosm, with which he dominates the stage during the first half.

Luke Owen’s Unscorched provides a absorbing scene for Lee Comley and Rachel Delooze, as a couple having trouble when attempting to consummate their relationship. Whereas Comely’s monologue presented an almost poetic, unhealthy obsession with a past relationship, the tone here is much lighter, though nonetheless realistic. Delooze, however, extends the sense of innocence she created as Louise in her solo spot from The Enchantment, the poetic child brimming with gauche excitement and apprehension. As Emily, Delooze maintains the trappings of childhood – teddy bears and penguin pyjamas – but has trouble accepting her boyfriend’s negative reaction to this. It is a comparatively short scene but one that stays with you, showcasing both performers in an equally strong light.

Friction of a very different sort rears its head in Everyday Maps For Everyday Use, featuring Kris Fisher and Ben Wills. Wills as John, cheerily munching his way through a box of Pringles, appears totally relaxed on stage, a perfect contrast to the evidently troubled Behrooz, a well observed study of frustration from Fisher. The scene takes a moment to settle in, but eventually develops into a fulfilling duologue for two men, exploring complex issues of trust and friendship in the digital age.

When it comes to straightforward drama, Anya Reiss provides Colm Bateman and Libby Grant a genuine opportunity to stretch their dramatic muscles with an episode from Spur Of The Moment. A desperately complex scene from the get-go, underscored with a shared emotional history, Grant’s Vicky scratches at the still raw wounds of her damaged relationship with Bateman’s Nick. Despite their young age, both actors handle the maturity – or rather immaturity – of the situation well, maintaining focus throughout and pitching the highs and lows of the argument with a genuine flair for the dramatic.

It comes as quite a contrast to suddenly hear the sound of Liza beckoning all to the Cabaret, but it’s only the radio setting the scene for Spike Heels by Theresa Rebeck. Glenn McGivern as Andrew negotiates his makeshift kitchen set with comparative ease ahead of the arrival of a less than happy Georgie, played by Jayne Turpin. The two actors inhabit their space comfortably, developing a relaxed performance and instilling a sense of back-history into their characters.

Expert’s Choice

Benjamin Newsome, casting director, chooses Lee Comley and Daisy-May Parsons

Showcase information

Venue: Tristan Bates Theatre, London

Date: April 21, 2015

Director: Lise Olson

Technical: Helen Gibbs (stage manager), John Kemshell (technician)

Students: Daisy-May Parsons, Ben Wills, Frederick Arnot, Rachel Delooze, Matthew Bretton, Colm Bateman, Natalie Edward-Yesufu, Jayne Turpin, Kris Fisher, Sophie Handy, Lee Comley, Glenn McGivern, Libby Grant, Joe Tandberg

Running time: 40mins

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