Beat Part 1: Silence – Liam Donohoe
SUDS’ latest production, “Beat”, showcases the society’s “freshest new talent”, providing many budding thespians and directors with their first opportunity on the Uni stage. Presented across two parts, the first – “Silence” – explored its namesake across 10 different, but thematically related, scenes.
The night began with an extract from Annie Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation”, a wry ensemble piece that succeeded at exploring silence. The scene was creatively structured, broken down into a number of smaller units and interspersed throughout the duration of the first act. Credit must go to director Issy Phillips and cast for their ability to turn the simple game of “counting in turn” into an engaging, suspenseful, and well-developed storyline.
The second scene was the first original student work, “The Rest is Silence” by Jess Zlotnick, a piece that extrapolated / alluded to “Hamlet”. Lauren McNaught and Anna Williamson’s presentation of the work was raw, but ultimately effective, naturally conveying the piece’s humour.
The third scene, “Couples Therapy”, by Riley Nolan, was another original piece. The lead female actress, Elizabeth Milstead, was superb, and her delivery, combined with the authentic costuming, lighting, and sound tracking, communicated the piece’s noir style to great effect.
“Constellation”, by Nick Payne, was perhaps the most enjoyable, or at least he funniest, of the night. Bronwyn Hicks and Tushar Prasad were both excellent, with an astonishing natural chemistry. The effective use of lighting to delineate the end, and beginning, of a sequence of humorous romantic exchanges, warrants particular mention.
The second part of the show changed directions somewhat, taking on a grimmer tone. This change was punctuated from the outset by the first scene – “Act Without Words”, by Samuel Beckett, one that explored silence to a significant extent. Emma Web was convincing as she took on the exhausting solo piece – displaying great range through her ambiguous reactions to tempting, yet ultimately futile, props.
Following this, and in keeping with the more serious tone, was “Caress / Ache”, by Suzie Miller, a piece about a prisoner on death row facing imminent execution. Both Jack Kennare and Max Peacock were compelling as they pondered the philosophical consequences of their respective roles as bureaucrat and prisoner.
The seventh scene, “Opening Night”, was an adapted work by Jimmy Pucci featuring Noa Zulman. Not content with mere scriptwriting, Pucci also directed the piece, and to great effect, creating the night’s most interesting and sudden thematic change through an abrupt lighting switch and an incredibly intense sound track transition.
The eighth scene, “Melancholy Play”, saw Michael Sun and Helena Parker combine dry humour with semi-serious and insightful philosophical reflection, as they fret over their friend’s metamorphosis into an Almond. Quirkiness was also on display in the subsequent piece, “Canned”, an original piece by Gabby Florek. The work’s sole actress – Laura McInnes, was compelling as she played an eccentric, and perhaps unreliable, narrator.
The final piece, “Come and Go”, another Beckett work, was a slow, ambiguous, and unclear piece. The piece was ultimately a testing one, with audiences unsure how to follow / read the work, yet all acknowledged that that was clearly its aim.
All in all, audiences certainly left the Cellar Theatre with a greater appreciation for the role of silence in the theatre. But, more importantly, they were left with a desire to see much more of the directors, actors, and writers that had made them laugh and think with their fresh approaches.
Beat Part 2: Noise – Alison Xiao
From xylophones to coital yahoos, a cacophony of noise lays foundation to the fantastic performances in SUDS’ latest production. The anthology show incorporates eleven scenes, a mixture of original student material and published works. Each scene was a surprise and a delight, introducing an array of quirky characters and stories.
Directed by Ang Collins and Sarah Graham, the impressive soundscape encourages audiences to soak in the wit, humour and emotional beats of the show. The stories themselves, though dissonant, are weaved together by the thematic framework of Noise.
Harriet Lugsdin turns in an amazing performance as a struggling mother of three, unable to do it all. With words, she frantically paints a picture of her world; Ben, who just wants to eat cocopops; Amy, who demands know how many countries there are in Africa; a sockless baby whose feet are cold. The monologue is impressive and packs a punch.
An adaptation from Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike sees “an old lady go apeshit” as a middle-aged woman scolds and lectures a boy who is addicted to his phone. The endless sounds of text and snapchat notifications are a feeling that director Michael Sun knows all too well, and punctuated the beats of the monologue.
There are so many standout performances, each person I spoke to after the show had their own favourite. Mine was Kitchen Appliances, a story of the chaos of a kitchen, as told by personified kitchen appliances. The crescendo begins as a fridge door is left open. Her lip trembles, her body starts to quiver, the fridge is distressed, crying, shaking. The scene calms as the fridge door closes. But soon, the intensity builds again. The phone begins to sing Sister Sledge’s ‘We are Family’, the kettle whistles (and wails), the fridge door is again left open. Keshini De Mel as the toast machine, is incomparable. She grimaces as she heats the toast, and delivers an epic war cry of T-O-A-S-T TOASTTTTTT, screams which reverberate through the packed Cellar Theatre.
Though the cast were all-rounded and talented, the disparate nature of the compilation meant stories suffered by comparison, and the ebb and flow of energy missed some beats. The experience felt too jarring at times, and many of the more serious, dialogue-heavy scenes tended to drag. A tighter script would have made for a more cohesive show.
With over 25 writers, actors and directors, Beat is a true showcase of what the society has to offer. I would strongly recommend you cancel your Saturday night plans and spare 70 minutes for this amazing show at The Cellar Theatre, but it is over now.