Saturday, 20 September 2014

Choice Cuts - WAAPA (20 September 2014)

Let’s begin at the ending, shall we…?

Far, far away in a magical land called Mountlawleycampus there was a good witch who was no doubt popular (Jane Watt) and a green-faced, masculine witch with a black witch’s hat and caked on face paint (Joel Horwood) who was clearly evil (the grin gave it away!).  Yet despite their differences and Elphaba-Joel making Glinda-Jane crack up during their number, they came through three years of trials and tribulations stronger and yes, changed for good. 
When the massed company of WAAPA’s graduating acting class joined Horwood and Watt in singing Wicked’s For Good in Choice Cut’s finale it was funny but also strangely moving as the sentiment of the lyrics was appropriate and heartfelt. It capped off a couple of hours of entertainment from the third year students whose thoughts will now wander towards showcase tours and life beyond WAAPA.

What an eclectic mix this show presented from three years of productions and study! There were the obligatory scenes from a selection of Shakespeare’s greatest works - Macbeth, As You Like It, and Othello; the last played out with murderous intensity only inches from me in the wonderfully compact Roundhouse Theatre. Interspersed throughout were monologues and self-devised pieces including Harriet Davies lamenting her ISS or Irritable Singing Syndrome which saw her amusingly burst into song at any moment.

In fact there was far more singing than I expected with several strong voices on display such as Henry Hammersla (I Believe) and Alex Malone (Maybe This Time). Indeed the first half ended in raucous fashion as ‘The Girls’ of the class presented their Protest Song that challenged, far more indelicately than I will describe it, certain, ahem, expectations of female grooming. It had the small but appreciative audience chuckling their way to the bake sale in the foyer. An aside: damn nice homemade cookies and cake!

There was a lot of accent work on display and clearly this is a focus over the journey. It featured as the group revisited productions such as The Golden Age, Speaking in Tongues/No Worries and Chekhov in Yalta where, damn it, Felicity McKay will create Magic If! There were two specific Accent and Dialect Monologues as well, by Julio Cesar and Kirsty Marillier.

Physicality was highlighted with a mix of fight sequences and the inhabiting of everything from animals to the poor, twisted creatures of The Golden Age to Toddlers. The last I had seen conducted as an exercise by Angela Punch-McGregor during Open Day so I was delighted to watch Adam Sollis and Jane Watt channel their inner child with such abandon. 

The humour here was more of the sly variety, for example Joel Horwood and Jonny Hawkins having fun in an excerpt from Waiting for Godot where the worst possible insult, far above moron or sewer rat, was musical theatre student! The transitions worked better in the second half but there were times the audience was unsure when to clap so some ‘acts’ didn’t get their just applause as they bled into the next. This certainly wasn’t the case after Hawkin’s Tribute to Stritch, a statuesque performance in stockings, heels, wig and a dress.

All the third year shows were reprised with the sequence from Festen giving me the same uncomfortable feeling as when I first saw it, a testament to that production’s power and to the skill of this class. Realism revisited some brave moments with Liam Maguire, Harriet Davies and Alexis Lane featuring while Great Expectations had a quick whip around by the chorus. I was intrigued by the glimpses of shows I hadn’t seen, namely The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and Hour of the Wolf (second year production).

It was an engaging tour of three years of hard work and talent with the dramatic highlight being the work of Holly Dryoff, Aleks Mikic, Emma Diaz and Henry Hammersla in the Othello scene which had great intensity particularly from Diaz and Mikic. The Protest Song was an unexpected treat and the understated humour throughout worked well. Not everyone had a featured moment but all worked well in the various ensembles including Steph Tsindos and Alexander Frank. I’ve only just realised one person was missing, Harry Richardson whose Herbert I quite enjoyed in Great Expectations.

Well done one and all and thank you for a great year. Thank you also to the second year students who were on front of house and bake sale duty. It was great to chat with some of you and I look forward to seeing Blood Wedding and hearing what your third year shows will be.

Now, as mentioned, the audience wasn’t that large for a Saturday matinee on the first hot day of the impending summer. But there is one more show left, Sunday at 5pm and the money collected from ticket sales, the raffle and bake sale help get these talented actors over east for their showcase tour. It’s going to be stormy and awful outside so go and see some theatrical magic instead!   

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