Chris Abbott | 01 Jul 2015 11:40am
Sedos is a group with a long and impressive history, and their residency at the Bridewell has enabled them to offer a wide range of plays and musicals. As is evident from the Sedos website, the company has a very welcoming attitude to pitches for productions, whether from regular members or newcomers.
First-time Sedos director Matt Bentley chose to direct Serial Killers, a play from his home country of New Zealand. Serial Killers is, unfortunately, a rather curious and unsatisfying play, although the cast did everything they could to surmount these difficulties.
The action is set in a room where the writers of a soap opera meet to thrash out story lines and argue about plot threads, with occasional visits from a producer and one of the cast. At intervals during the action we switch to extracts from the soap opera, which is set in a hospital, and seems to have parallels with the lives of the writers.
The first half is largely about introducing the characters and the rather complex relationships between them. The sudden production of a gun at the denouement of the first act catapults the play into a hostage drama for the second and rather more entertaining half of this rather long evening.
The laughs came very slowly to start with, much of the verbal humour falling flat, but the situation in the later stages of the play led to rather more amusement. Even so, it is probably not a good idea for directors to promise “constant laughs” in their programme notes or a “guaranteed fun night out;” it’s always best to let audiences come to their own conclusions about that.
Particularly strong performances came from Lisa Rost-Welling (one of four cast members also new to Sedos) and a compelling Jen Jewell, both of them well able to switch between their more naturalistic performances as members of the writing team and the heightened approach needed for the extracts from the soap opera which interrupted the action at regular intervals.
Rost-Welling, in particular, ensured that every word was clear and avoided dropping her voice at the end of lines, a problem for one or two of the other actors. Rick Woska was a solid and reliable cast member, also able to switch mode effectively for the soap opera inserts. Hattie Stacey, appropriately intense, and the ebullient Natalie Harding-Moore contributed wholly believable portrayals of contrasting members of the soap opera team, and the complex inter-relationships between them.
Playing what seemed at first like smaller roles, Dickon Farmer and an engaging Nick Marrast-Lewis gradually became the centre of the action, ending the play together with a convincing portrayal of a difficult and frankly unbelievable ending. Although I felt Farmer’s portrayal of Ned in the soap opera could have been broader, his Alan grew in stature and was one of the more believable characters among the scriptwriter team.
Updating and relocating the play was understandable but half-hearted; mentions of The Inbetweeners and Downton Abbey seemed wildly out of place, and were heard alongside unaltered slang like butts, buns and wieners and with a poster of Ronald Reagan on the wall… First produced in 2000, the play is essentially a commentary on 1990s antipodean soap opera and much more appropriately kept to that date and location.
The effective though rather empty set was well lit for the naturalistic scenes but the soap opera extracts could perhaps have been further heightened by non-naturalistic lighting. For some in the audience, the ghost of a far better play, Peter Nichols’ The National Health, came into mind. That earlier play too contrasted real life with soap opera in a hospital setting, but with satirical purpose in mind.
The soap opera extracts, presumably intended to be on video as in the production of the play at Derby Playhouse in 2005, were acted live by the hard-working cast. This involved some very fast costume changes by the actors, much rushing on and off stage, and the inevitable blackouts to music. These pauses, although minimised by the well-rehearsed cast, interrupted the action in a way that an instant switch to video would not have done.
On a very hot evening in June, a small but attentive audience enjoyed the play, particularly the second half. If the response at the end was a little lukewarm, that was much more likely to be a reflection of the temperature and their reactions to the play, rather than to the hardworking cast and creative team.
- : admin
- : 30/06/2015