The soft, meditative tone in which Elli Siora discusses her new play at its preview forms an appropriate introduction to a drama both pleasingly thoughtful and thought-provoking. Rewritten is designed as popular theatre, Siora hopes that: “people leave and think ‘I could have written that’”.
This is accessible, the people’s theatre, or rather the students’. Rewritten celebrates and analyses the student experience through the lens of casual sex and its surrounding miasma of miscommunication, confusion and deceit. Conspicuous Company, the production team behind Rewritten, promise to offer “contemporary theatre and film that is entertaining and thought-provoking but still remains in touch with student-produced messiness”; an aim that Rewritten is primed to deliver.
The celebration of student drama’s potential for messiness is offset by an overarching attention to detail. Audiences will appreciate the devoted care with which Rewritten has been staged. Symbolic nuance is pursued in a set which incorporates Siora’s interest in cinematically visual memory. Crusty towels, an old microwave, and dog-eared dominos boxes are scattered over a carpet cut into large puzzle pieces which are lightly suggestive, of memory as something puzzled over, or rearranged in fragmentary pieces. The psycho-symbolic fuses smoothly with a credible representation of the real. The set reflects the submerged experience of the Michael Pilch studio itself, exploring fragmented and buried memory under the weight of student accommodation.
This is an innovative and multisensory approach from a play which deftly explores memory— how good memories are ‘rewritten’ in the light of later events. This detail will prove highly effective. Siora describes how she was drawn to the layout of the Pilch studio, (with spectators facing each other with almost claustrophobic closeness) as reflecting a conversation with two sides, like the dysfunctional relationship at the centre, open to two readings.
The central rewriting structure of the play presents a challenge. As with all forms which use the device of repetition with variation this must be managed sensitively. Engaging performances, particularly from Alannah Burns in the leading role ensure that the audience’s attention will remain rapt for the ‘B’ version of events, alert to and gratified by small changes.
The rewriting style places tone and physical performance under close scrutiny and offers the opportunity for this strong cast to demonstrate their flexibility. The performances hold the sense of the relatable and even mundane in tension with accomplished technical precision and a smooth delivery. The scene in which Fowler and Burns have an argument about big, unsolvable problems within a tiny cramped bath is perfectly scripted and delicately executed.
The discussion is one all too familiar to an audience well-versed in the emotional, unvoiced side of the casual dating scene. Fowler’s character’s self-serving protestations of “honesty” and desire to be “clear” about the situation of being “just friends” whilst in a bath together gets to the heart of the creative use this production makes of ambiguity.
The charm of this play, and the quality which will hold audiences’ attentions (and embroil them in heated post-play discussions) stems from the production’s ability to teeter on the edge of the quotidian but offer a revitalized perspective on entirely relatable events. It is refreshing to see a student production which is so introspective, reaching back into the lives, experience, and psychology of its audience—with references to Oxlove and snatches of the Friends theme tune serving as beautifully integrated links to this audience’s shared cultural experience.
With a stellar cast, engaging script, and hypnotic live musical accompaniment this play will be a joy for audiences to both watch, and to interpret their own spin on its teasingly myriad versions of the same story.