Venue 1, Tuesday 6th Nov
Clockwork, written and directed by Alex Mullarky is the newest student written drama to be performed in St Andrews. Held in Venue One, the story follows a young English captain (played by Cooper Goldman) stationed in a French village towards the end of WWI. The set was necessarily minimalist with the changing of scene indicated only by the actors standing in a different area of the stage, generating an eerie simplicity which served as a barren landscape reminiscent of the WW1 battlefield, creating a blank canvas on which to paint its message.
The message however possessed no coherency. It tried to be everything at once: a commentary on the nightmarish nature of war, a coming of age tale, a romance, and a fantasy. The result was a conglomeration of one subplot after another with the main storyline nearly impossible to discern. Perhaps most bizarre was the title plot, that of a young man who wanted to be a clockmaker, which was relegated to little more than an afterthought and was an all too convenient tool to tie the confused threads together.
Characterisation suffered due to the lack of focus. Goldman’s character was unlikeable in his inconsistency. His reactions were robotic with the occasional bursts of melodrama that were more bewildering than poignant. A bright spot was Caterina Giammarresi who delivered an understated performance as Manon, the pretty boulangerie owner whose plucky optimism was punctuated by the occasional glimpse into her closely guarded pain. Her emotional depths were beautiful, managing to delicately portray the devastation of war without tumbling into the trap of melodrama.
The familiarity between officers and their subordinates rang false, which may seem a comparatively small gripe. However, in a play that seemed to be striving towards gritty emotional realism, glaring inaccuracies such as this made the suspension of disbelief almost impossible. The only exception was Lewis Harding as Major Peat. His startling shifts in tone and emotion from the abrupt harshness of commanding fellow soldiers to a gruff but gentle manner with Manon added an intricacy to his performance that was effective. Another standout was Calder Hudson whose twitchy mannerisms as the inexperienced soldier, Bailey, provided an effective physical contrast to Goldman’s stoicism.
The real problem consistent in Clockwork was not the actors performances, but the material they were given. The characters were not allowed to develop naturally and were told rather than shown. Though certain aspects of the story were compelling on their own, there were simply too many elements, and their proper development suffered as a consequence.