THIS latest production from the college’s performing arts department was an adaptation of the Frank Wedekind play which tells the story of the various “awakenings” adolescence brings to a trio of friends. It is a dark, menacing play and certainly a challenging choice for such young actors.
Played out before stark black walls, the actors seemed like dolls trapped in a dolls’ house, manipulated by a will other than their own. There was no attempt to use sound or light to create a sense that anything was alive beyond the walls, which resulted in a desolate bleakness. The only glimpse of the outside world came in the form of a spindly tree branch, devoid of blossom or leaves, that appeared to be breaking its way in. Despite occasional talk of an “outside” whose location was never entirely clear, none of the characters ventured far into it and those that that came in from “outside” only seemed to bring death or despair.
Confined within this Expressionistic milieu were Ben Cooper as Malachi and Cai Matthew as Morris. Cooper possessed a stillness suggesting his character was a thinker, interested in poetry and philosophy, his days spent reading Faust and dreaming of tree spirits. Yet when awakened by Wendy into action, there were terrible consequences for them both.
Cooper gave a solid performance, while Matthew displayed manic energy, his eyes constantly darting from side to side, his body unable to ever be totally at rest. As a pair they worked well and you could not fail to be moved by their respective fates.
As the object of Malachi’s passion, Chloe Golding gave a spirited performance, successfully capturing Wendy’s youthful naiveté. At the moment of sexual violence between Golding and Cooper the lights went out, lending great impact to this blunt and brutal moment.
Able support came from many of the young cast, but Grace Willis deserves mention for her performance as Malachi’s mother. Willis was convincing in the role and her scene with the letter was a highlight of the evening, delivered as it was with a sense of emotional intelligence.
Mention should also be made of Jordan Peedell and James Fawcett who, as classmates of Malachi and Morris, proved capable of dealing with a homosexual subplot in a mature and sensitive manner.
This is not an easy play for audience or actor and all should be commended, including director Neil McCurley for his handling of this challenging material.