By Sam PritchardThere is not enough new writing performed in Oxford. Mounting a production of a play written by a student is a demanding challenge in a programme dominated by popular classics and heavyweights. The frantic speed involved getting a play into performance doesn’t leave much time for the development and exploration of a fresh script. However, it is a worthwhile undertaking, as The One That Got Away shows.
The play takes a look at the character of Henry (Satbir Sky Singh), an old man whose comic encounters on a park bench are not all that they seem. What seems to be a farce based on innuendo and misunderstanding turns into something altogether more tragic as we discover more about Henry’s actual circumstances.
There are good things about Cathy Thomas’ script, but this it is a long way away from the finished product. The piece has a winning and engaging quality in its comedy and a desire to invest its central character with a more serious interiority. It takes its lead from the tragi-comic approach of a play like Anthony Neilson’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia. However, it has none of the sharp comedy and genuine pathos achieved in that show.
I felt vaguely as though a dressing up box of tired jokes and impressions had been emptied all over me. Monty Python voices, melodramatic parody and hyperactive children all featured. There is also a puzzling sequence in which a spy mistakes Henry for an informant; I initially took it to be a joke about gay pick-ups, which goes to show how deeply anachronistic much of the comedy is in this piece.
This is a play that has been badly served by the process of its development. It all has the feel of something rushed, squeezed in between a series of other projects. The cast are energetic and engaged, but at the moment all they can do is sketch out a series of possibilities that the writing opens up. The direction is frankly sloppy and inconsistent. It shows none of the care and attention that a play in development should merit.
My hunch is that The One That Got Away could be an ambitious evening of theatre. However for an audience it is a mixture of painful birth pangs and frustrated potential. You should support it, but you’ll also have to puzzle out what kind of play it really is.Dir. Steve Lomon
Burton Taylor, 9.30pm
4th Week