The Alchemist was an impressively bold choice for a play. The comedy is tenuous, especially given its outdated nature, and the language, as with most archaic material, capriciously demands care and attention. The actors did not disappoint in this pursuit. Adam Spencer’s leading role was confident and brazen, continously echoing the dialogue within his entire frame; acting from head to toe. Connor Powell was a stand out, and showed huge talent and potential. The versatility of his portrayals, as well as his delicate transition between the tones, styles and characters that the play demands were expert. Unlike many of the other actors, his discourse was both clear and expressive – the drama of the scenes at hand did not suppress the poignancy of his language and make already moderately inaccessible material even more so.
The play tells the tale of a butler and his cohort as they fool and extort a menagerie of Londoners with promises of gold, virginal women, and more. It’s an incredible play, but one that poses a staging dilemma. The restrictive confines of the Barron were, however, immaculately employed. A simple door, sofa, and desk positioned in careful consideration of the spatial parameters of the Barron meant for an effective and well constructed landscape for the production.
One must admit that the transposition of the play from its original Elizabethan context to that of the contemporary era was gawky and uncomfortable. The flaw was not that the jokes were mostly outdated, but that it’s hard to find archaisms as hilarious as they were intended when they’re paired with characters simultaneously texting and sharing cigarettes. The directing was well executed, but perhaps mis-contextualised. It’s a play that should certainly have stayed rooted in the 17th century.
Considering the fortitude of the source material, and the tough directorial choices that the play demands, it was a very well executed play. It displayed some of the finest production in St Andrews theatre, and really pushed the lead actors to the forefront of our little town’s theatre scene (I’ll definitely be watching the future productions of the lead role actors). A charming production and an enjoyable evening. Congratulations to all involved in The Alchemist.