Category Archives: Drama
Oriza Hirata’s The Scientifically Minded is described as a ‘quiet theatre’, a theatrical style which presents a group of people interacting in a naturalistic fashion that is considered both public and private. In The Scientifically Minded, this happens to be the common (or waiting) room of a laboratory. The director of this production argues that this is ‘key to the operation of Hirata’s dramaturgy. He eschews conventional plotting and narrative devices such as exposition and ‘back-story’, so the flow of people through his foyers and waiting rooms, and their various permutations, offer dramaturgic structure’.
When I first entered the theatre, I was worried the production had begun. A woman was sat at a large desk with a computer before her. In the following few minutes, several characters appeared and disappeared whilst having a brief conversation with the woman seated at the computer. This, I discovered, was all part of the set-up of Hirata’s style. It was not part of the production, rather it engaged the audience in the social interactions of the characters.
As the lights dimmed and the production began, Hirata’s form revealed itself as conversation after conversation made frequent reference to ‘the project’. The audience discovered that this was a genetic manipulation project being performed by one of the professors, appropriately dubbed ‘Godzilla’. The setting was problematic as the number of characters outnumbered the number of forward-facing chairs, making it difficult to see the nuances of the actors and actresses.
What was more disappointing was that the sub-textual themes of the production failed to show themselves. The conversation between the characters was stunted and their voices failed to carry past the fifth or sixth row. Given this was the first night, I could understand that nerves got the better of them but there was something missing. There was no spark to the interaction, as if each actor was creating a narrative.
This continued for two hours and the comic dialogue and interaction between the characters was unneeded and frustrating at best. Audience members found some parts amusing and this was a problem. In laughing to the jokes, some of the dialogue was lost. The end came all too soon for this production as the lights were dimmed and the actors took their bow. The director described this production as ‘the light-hearted and sometimes childish conversation about genetic manipulation’ and suggested that it ‘invites audiences to question who actually should be responsible for taking potentially momentous decisions about these astonishing new technologies and procedures, which can affect our lives so profoundly’.
The themes that the director wished to present to the audience failed to come to fruition and this was disappointing. The dialogue about the ‘neanderthal project’ was a joke but this lacked the substance to suggest it was a serious issue. Rather than a production based on issues of the current age, it became a comic production about the interaction of characters.
I’d never been to see a monologue before, and my only image of one was the tortuous, painstakingly slow rendition of one woman’s awfully depressing life once featured in an episode of Friends. Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive about how one person onstage could create enough buzz, energy and entertainment to draw in a full theatre audience single handed. But that’s what Rachel Shaw did, the actress playing the part of Adele, a 22 year old girl who struggles through her childhood and post-school years before giving in to her inner want to be ‘beautiful’, in Dave Windass’s production of Thinspiration.
Usually a comedy writer, Windass turned his hand to the serious issue of anorexia to break down the walls sheltering the taboo nature of the play. His combination of excellent writing, conveying the exact emotions of the character without conforming to easy stereotypes while using short bursts of humour to readdress the audience, with phenomenal acting ability, made Thinspiration an inspiration for writers and actors alike.
Not only was the part of Adele played with such vigour, but introductions of other characters were conveyed equally impressively, creating an atmosphere in which it was hard to believe only one person was onstage throughout the set.
Thinspiration’s invitation into Adele’s mind went further than what she was feeling, but told the audience who she was at her most personal level. The audience weren’t watching a character form, they were also that character, going on the same mental journey as Adele, and felt her pain when her enemies of all kinds addressed her.
The subject of eating disorders is such a fragile one that many writers fall into the trap of delivering the facts while tiptoeing around the harder to accept realities, as the same audience saw from Seed, the first play of the back to back productions in the same night.
Thinspiration was performed at Hull Truck Theatre on Saturday 10th July as part of a one-off show in a series of events surrounding the Humber Mouth Literature festival.