If there was anything a group of stressed students, grumbling with the particular anxieties pertaining to Week 9, needed it was last night’s performances of ‘The Pretentious Young Ladies’ and ‘Check Please’. Monday night’s performance kicked off this semester’s round of Freshers’ Plays, and in no uncertain terms, these two casts absolutely (prefacing this with an apology for the lack of eloquence here, but I am left with little choice) smashed it!
The evening opened with Isabelle Duff’s ‘The Pretentious Young Ladies’ featuring Perry Saxon and Ken Min Leong’s befuddled duo of La Grange and Du Croisy, (who were arguably possessed of serious ‘nice-guy’ complexes) completely perplexed in the wake of their rejection by two inferior ‘country wenches’. Duos worked well here and were embarrassingly relatable; Nell Carter and Tessa King’s flouncing cousins ramped up the satire with their over-egged girlishness as they lusted after the quite obviously batting-for-the-other-team ‘Marquis de Marscaille’, played by Callum Douglas. The indefatigable Alice Gold was immense in her role of long-suffering lusty mother Gorigbus, cavorting about the stage with an ease which can only be described as unnervingly natural; voice warbling, expression always irrevocably ‘en pointe’ and never out of character. Douglas’ ‘Marquis’ was fabulously portrayed – his alternative rendition of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ brought the house down.
The costuming was particularly noteworthy in this production; Gorigbus and her girls remained true and ridiculous in their over the top pink satin till the very end, in which the Marquis and Jon White’s ‘Viscount Jodelet’ (or rather, the footmen of the two ‘nice guys’) are, conversely, quite literally given a dressing down, their poetic guises unmasked. The piece was drawn to a somewhat disturbing close with Gorigbus’s address to the audience under a spotlight, drawing to a close what was a fantastically bizarre and fun production, satirically drawing upon themes such as love and class conflict.
After a brief interval, during which the audience shuffled outside to regain some composure in the cold, we were welcomed back inside to be gloriously entertained by ‘Check Please’. Highly relatable, the play follows two struggling individuals – wonderfully depicted by Milly Clover and Miles Peter Hurley – as they trawl through a series of haunting first dates, encountering a plethora of ‘offbeat’ characters along the way. The storyline satirizes the hunt for love, exaggerating pretty accurate situations to achieve comic effect very successfully. Kleptomania, chauvinism, and a multiple personality disorder are but a few choice elements with which the central protagonists must contend; the result is, as one can well imagine, exceedingly funny.
Alas, there were too many smashingly (smashing seems to be a theme here) good performances to praise each one individually and in light of this I will just mention a couple of the standouts. Julia Gerhardt’s performance as a kleptomaniac – who over the course of the date surreptitiously steals all of the tableware as if she won’t be noticed – and mime were excellent, and Perry Saxon’s deadpan depiction of an obtuse pig and then of one strangely be-robed in a bin bag (‘it’s Versace!’) were spot on; never has anyone laughed harder at the delivery of a simple “what” than we did last night. The whole effect was, of course, aided by the subtle lighting and fantastic directorial intention. The set up of the two tables, while simplistic, worked extremely effectively and the quick pace ensured that focus endured and enjoyment prevailed. Kudos must go to director Olivia Smales and her cast for maintaining a consistent, upbeat energy throughout.
Every student across the two plays performed with aplomb and a fresh sort of energy – the casts were able to bounce off the eager enthusiasm of an audience who shed their tired, Week 9 worn skin at the door and re-entered the world afterward as brightly lit newborns with refreshed perspective and sorely split sides. On behalf of all of the attendees I would like to thank both casts for making such fantastic productions possible; we came in plodding, we walked out rejoicing.