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Typical Student Drama

Posted on 8th March 2005. 62 Comments

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Lucinda Fenton isn’t overly impressed with Durham’s budding playwrights…
sorry, wrong number | definitive | light-hearted beckett

The term ‘student drama’ brings up a lot of connotations; often dramatically ambitious, and sometimes innovative, yet all too often it is far too earnest and let’s face it, downright pretentious. There is drama going on Durham that manages to break free of some of the constraints of student theatre and really starts to entertain and move, see, for example The Homecoming and Amadeus. However, on Thursday my suspicions of student theatre were once again confirmed, particularly those concerning writing.

Sorry, Wrong Number
The first play, a romantic comedy called Sorry, Wrong Number was written and directed by Durham’s very own famous (or should that be infamous?) Pop Idol contender, Chris Neville-Smith. Sadly tonight there were few laughs and little chemistry was evoked by the two leads; Simon Fairgrieve playing Justin and Kate Murphy playing Sarah. The opening moments saw Justin leaving Sarah a message asking her out on a date, except the message wasn’t for her, rather for a girl called Emily who had obviously given him a wrong number. For reasons best know to herself, Sarah calls back pretending to be Emily and agrees to the date. What follows is an awkward and very static date scene where Sarah constantly digs herself into holes because, while Emily might have been passionate about horse-racing and classic novels, Sarah has no idea about either.

Neville-Smith, more than either of the other two dramatists, had attempted to actually write a play with a developed plot and characters, yet I was left frustrated by the muddled script and poor acting. The words and actions just didn’t add up. Justin declares that when he came into the bar, he spent twenty minutes searching for Sarah/Emily. Well he clearly didn’t – he barely seemed to look at all! Later on Justin suddenly announces from nowhere that he has to go and then is very vague about where and why. The impression the audience received was that he wanted to leave as fast as possible, and yet the next minute he’s declaring his undying love for her. Sorry, what?! The situation and characters that Neville-Smith had created, definitely had potential for a lot of humour and also some pathos, but unfortunately these emotions were never evoked.

Definitive
The next piece by Narayani Menon, The Taken the Taker The Right and The Left, was definitive ‘student drama.’ I don’t doubt that Menon is a promising writer but I did feel that there was too much linguistic cleverness and not enough content. Having said that I didn’t dislike this production, I just didn’t feel it reached its full potential. It was a big issue that could never really be fully covered in the twenty or so minutes of the play.

The play took its inspiration from the recent kidnapping and murder of Kenneth Bigley. It was concerned with opposites: that of The Taken against The Taker and the Left against the Right. The Taken (Jake West) is a Kenneth Bigley-type character who is being held captive by a Russian woman, The Taker (Anna Biktimirova). The other duo is the Left (Hannah Brown) who represents the woman left behind and the Right (Philip Sidney); the politician trying to deal with the political turmoil that the situation has aroused. He must mediate between the personal demands (those of the left) and the more universal demands concerning whether we should ever negotiate with terrorists.

The acting was all up to a reasonable standard and I particularly liked the two male leads. Hannah Brown unfortunately became a bit too hysterical; there was nowhere for her character to go because she reached such a frenzy so early on. Anna Biktimirova had a very effective Russian accent, but judging from her name I suspect she might have had a bit of a head start on this! Anna and Jake were a nice foil to the hysteria of the other pair.

The two pairs never interact, but Menon created some highly effective moments of dramatic tension whenever they spoke in unison with each other, which helped to bring home the parallels of each situation. I really liked the staging of it. The four actors were sat in a long line across the front of the stage and each one of them was up-lit. A dark mood was immediately established and an intense focus was placed on what the actors were about to say. It could easily have been as static as the aforementioned play, but Menon managed to avoid this, by moving the actors whenever the opportunity presented itself

Light-hearted Beckett
The last play of the night was the Beckettian offering, Don’t Provoke the Monkey, although thankfully it was a little more light-hearted than Beckett. Wavell Blades emerging from his dustbin/ tinfoil-covered alien egg was definitely the most startling entrance of the night and probably received the biggest laugh. Don’t Provoke the Monkey concerned Gareth Owen as a painter, Adam, and Blades as Levi, a philosopher of sorts. Blades was the more effective of the two, with his resonant voice and stage presence. The end provided us with the strongest moment of the play as Adam collapses in a kind of fit and Levi then appeals to audience to make of it what we will and disappears inside his shell. Although the staging was interesting and some of the dialogue quite witty, my major criticism of this piece would be that there was no plot and it was hard for the audience to understand the point that the playwright was trying to make, if any.

Some of the offerings on show did have some potential to be developed, but none of the three plays could be described as consummate dramatic creations. Maybe people will accuse me of having too high standards for what is, after all, only amateur drama prepared under strong time constraints. But the wealth of talent in Durham is bigger and better than this and I really look forward to next year and hope that it will have more to offer the audience.

Lucinda Fenton

photography (not necessarily of the plays reviewed above) barney

62 Comments »

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    Well, as writer and director, I suppose it’s up to me to respond to these points.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. Although I have a rule that I largely ignore reviews (I normally go along with Ayckbourn’s observation that you sometimes get a better review than you deserve, and you sometimes get a worse review than you deserve, but you never get the review you deserve), I do appreciate feedback. Even if I disagree with what I hear, it is far more useful than those people who find every amount of praise under the sun no matter how awful it was. However, from comparing Thursday’s reviewer to the reviewers for the other two nights, I suspect the Thursday performers have drawn the short straw.

    I admit that the audience reaction on Thursday was a disappointment – but mainly because I had already performed it for a social at Durham Dramatic Society and there were a lot of laughs then. In hindsight, choosing a preferred might for your play without checking if it clashes with Trevs DUCK Formal wasn’t one of my better ideas, as this is where I was counting on getting my audience from, but the people who’d come to see the other plays weren’t exactly the audience I was hoping for. I’m not trying to have a dig at the other plays – attempting to compare my play to the following one would be like trying to compare an elephant to Tuesday – but it did seem obvious that my supporters and their supporters have very different ideas of what they want to see in a play.

    Anyway, to answer the individual points:

    “For reasons best know to herself, Sarah calls back pretending to be Emily and agrees to the date.” This, I realise, was one of the most difficult things to try to explain through play dialogue. But the reason is that she’s lonely.

    “Justin declares that when he came into the bar, he spent twenty minutes searching for Sarah/Emily. Well he clearly didn’t – he barely seemed to look at all!” Now, with all due respect, I thought it would have been obvious that the fact there was only one bar table on stage might have given some clues that the stage didn’t represent the entire bar, and therefore most of Justin’s search was off-stage. Ho hum …

    “The impression the audience received was that he wanted to leave as fast as possible, and yet the next minute he’s declaring his undying love for her.” I am unsure how the reviewer has gauged the impression of the entire audience at each moment in the play, but the point was that Justin wasn’t using his other appointment as an excuse to get away – he genuinely does have to be somewhere else, hence how apologetic he is about it (and why Sarah’s not that convinced by it).

    Now, I am aware that explaining things after the play is not good enough in itself. I believe that good theatre (or, indeed, any form of art) does not need explaining, but that is not as easy as it looks. Every line I put in the play was there for a reason, but I have the problem (as does anyone in any play worth its salt) that as I and everyone else involed know the play and the characters inside out, I cannot put myself in the position of someone watching the play for the first time. I am am more than happy to discuss ideas that other people might have on how I could have better illustrated things that the audience didn’t follow, but I am hesitant to spell things out any more obviously than it was at the moment. In a good play, the unsaid is just as important the said. But from the general tone of this review, I fear that had budding playwright William Shakespeare been on that night with a new play of his called Hamlet, he would have got a similar review.

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    Well, as writer and director, I suppose it’s up to me to respond to these points.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. Although I have a rule that I largely ignore reviews (I normally go along with Ayckbourn’s observation that you sometimes get a better review than you deserve, and you sometimes get a worse review than you deserve, but you never get the review you deserve), I do appreciate feedback. Even if I disagree with what I hear, it is far more useful than those people who find every amount of praise under the sun no matter how awful it was. However, from comparing Thursday’s reviewer to the reviewers for the other two nights, I suspect the Thursday performers have drawn the short straw.

    I admit that the audience reaction on Thursday was a disappointment – but mainly because I had already performed it for a social at Durham Dramatic Society and there were a lot of laughs then. In hindsight, choosing a preferred might for your play without checking if it clashes with Trevs DUCK Formal wasn’t one of my better ideas, as this is where I was counting on getting my audience from, but the people who’d come to see the other plays weren’t exactly the audience I was hoping for. I’m not trying to have a dig at the other plays – attempting to compare my play to the following one would be like trying to compare an elephant to Tuesday – but it did seem obvious that my supporters and their supporters have very different ideas of what they want to see in a play.

    Anyway, to answer the individual points:

    “For reasons best know to herself, Sarah calls back pretending to be Emily and agrees to the date.” This, I realise, was one of the most difficult things to try to explain through play dialogue. But the reason is that she’s lonely.

    “Justin declares that when he came into the bar, he spent twenty minutes searching for Sarah/Emily. Well he clearly didn’t – he barely seemed to look at all!” Now, with all due respect, I thought it would have been obvious that the fact there was only one bar table on stage might have given some clues that the stage didn’t represent the entire bar, and therefore most of Justin’s search was off-stage. Ho hum …

    “The impression the audience received was that he wanted to leave as fast as possible, and yet the next minute he’s declaring his undying love for her.” I am unsure how the reviewer has gauged the impression of the entire audience at each moment in the play, but the point was that Justin wasn’t using his other appointment as an excuse to get away – he genuinely does have to be somewhere else, hence how apologetic he is about it (and why Sarah’s not that convinced by it).

    Now, I am aware that explaining things after the play is not good enough in itself. I believe that good theatre (or, indeed, any form of art) does not need explaining, but that is not as easy as it looks. Every line I put in the play was there for a reason, but I have the problem (as does anyone in any play worth its salt) that as I and everyone else involed know the play and the characters inside out, I cannot put myself in the position of someone watching the play for the first time. I am am more than happy to discuss ideas that other people might have on how I could have better illustrated things that the audience didn’t follow, but I am hesitant to spell things out any more obviously than it was at the moment. In a good play, the unsaid is just as important the said. But from the general tone of this review, I fear that had budding playwright William Shakespeare been on that night with a new play of his called Hamlet, he would have got a similar review.

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    Well, as writer and director, I suppose it’s up to me to respond to these points.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. Although I have a rule that I largely ignore reviews (I normally go along with Ayckbourn’s observation that you sometimes get a better review than you deserve, and you sometimes get a worse review than you deserve, but you never get the review you deserve), I do appreciate feedback. Even if I disagree with what I hear, it is far more useful than those people who find every amount of praise under the sun no matter how awful it was. However, from comparing Thursday’s reviewer to the reviewers for the other two nights, I suspect the Thursday performers have drawn the short straw.

    I admit that the audience reaction on Thursday was a disappointment – but mainly because I had already performed it for a social at Durham Dramatic Society and there were a lot of laughs then. In hindsight, choosing a preferred might for your play without checking if it clashes with Trevs DUCK Formal wasn’t one of my better ideas, as this is where I was counting on getting my audience from, but the people who’d come to see the other plays weren’t exactly the audience I was hoping for. I’m not trying to have a dig at the other plays – attempting to compare my play to the following one would be like trying to compare an elephant to Tuesday – but it did seem obvious that my supporters and their supporters have very different ideas of what they want to see in a play.

    Anyway, to answer the individual points:

    “For reasons best know to herself, Sarah calls back pretending to be Emily and agrees to the date.” This, I realise, was one of the most difficult things to try to explain through play dialogue. But the reason is that she’s lonely.

    “Justin declares that when he came into the bar, he spent twenty minutes searching for Sarah/Emily. Well he clearly didn’t – he barely seemed to look at all!” Now, with all due respect, I thought it would have been obvious that the fact there was only one bar table on stage might have given some clues that the stage didn’t represent the entire bar, and therefore most of Justin’s search was off-stage. Ho hum …

    “The impression the audience received was that he wanted to leave as fast as possible, and yet the next minute he’s declaring his undying love for her.” I am unsure how the reviewer has gauged the impression of the entire audience at each moment in the play, but the point was that Justin wasn’t using his other appointment as an excuse to get away – he genuinely does have to be somewhere else, hence how apologetic he is about it (and why Sarah’s not that convinced by it).

    Now, I am aware that explaining things after the play is not good enough in itself. I believe that good theatre (or, indeed, any form of art) does not need explaining, but that is not as easy as it looks. Every line I put in the play was there for a reason, but I have the problem (as does anyone in any play worth its salt) that as I and everyone else involed know the play and the characters inside out, I cannot put myself in the position of someone watching the play for the first time. I am am more than happy to discuss ideas that other people might have on how I could have better illustrated things that the audience didn’t follow, but I am hesitant to spell things out any more obviously than it was at the moment. In a good play, the unsaid is just as important the said. But from the general tone of this review, I fear that had budding playwright William Shakespeare been on that night with a new play of his called Hamlet, he would have got a similar review.

  • Anonymous said:

    So you’re comparing yourself to shakespeare,
    and your play to hamlet? Doesn’t that
    perhaps smack of perhaps the teeniest,
    tiniest amount of hubris?

  • Anonymous said:

    So you’re comparing yourself to shakespeare,
    and your play to hamlet? Doesn’t that
    perhaps smack of perhaps the teeniest,
    tiniest amount of hubris?

  • Anonymous said:

    So you’re comparing yourself to shakespeare,
    and your play to hamlet? Doesn’t that
    perhaps smack of perhaps the teeniest,
    tiniest amount of hubris?

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    No, don’t be bloody stupid, and if you’re going to sneer at people, at least have the guts to use a name.

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    No, don’t be bloody stupid, and if you’re going to sneer at people, at least have the guts to use a name.

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    No, don’t be bloody stupid, and if you’re going to sneer at people, at least have the guts to use a name.

  • Gemma said:

    Chris,

    In my view this was a balanced review expressing a geniune and thought out opinion. To suggest that the reviewer set out to write something negative is unfair and unfounded. In doing this you suggest that the review ought to be dismissed as prejudiced. The reviewer treated your work with far more respect than you have treated hers. I would recommend you reflect upon your comments a little more before you let your wounded pride get the better of you in future.

    Many thanks.

  • Gemma said:

    Chris,

    In my view this was a balanced review expressing a geniune and thought out opinion. To suggest that the reviewer set out to write something negative is unfair and unfounded. In doing this you suggest that the review ought to be dismissed as prejudiced. The reviewer treated your work with far more respect than you have treated hers. I would recommend you reflect upon your comments a little more before you let your wounded pride get the better of you in future.

    Many thanks.

  • Gemma said:

    Chris,

    In my view this was a balanced review expressing a geniune and thought out opinion. To suggest that the reviewer set out to write something negative is unfair and unfounded. In doing this you suggest that the review ought to be dismissed as prejudiced. The reviewer treated your work with far more respect than you have treated hers. I would recommend you reflect upon your comments a little more before you let your wounded pride get the better of you in future.

    Many thanks.

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    I am not expressing an opinion either way of what the reviewer set out to do. However, I am not the first person to have expressed scepticism about theatre reviews in Durham21, and I certainly don’t expect to be the last. However, whilst I respect that it is your job to defend the work of your reviewers, if you are critical of other people’s work, you can’t really complain if people are critical back.

    I do not wish to turn this into a sniping session. I am genuinely intersted in taking on board what people don’t like about my work, whether it’s one person’s opinion or everybody’s opinion, if it means I can do things better in the future. I would, for example, like to know how Lucinda Fenton interpreted one part as “he wanted to leave as fast as possible, and yet the next minute he’s declaring his undying love for her.” But if the policy of the Durham21 theatre section is to dismiss anyone answer back to a review as “wounded pride”, which I hope it isn’t, then this will be a waste of time.

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    I am not expressing an opinion either way of what the reviewer set out to do. However, I am not the first person to have expressed scepticism about theatre reviews in Durham21, and I certainly don’t expect to be the last. However, whilst I respect that it is your job to defend the work of your reviewers, if you are critical of other people’s work, you can’t really complain if people are critical back.

    I do not wish to turn this into a sniping session. I am genuinely intersted in taking on board what people don’t like about my work, whether it’s one person’s opinion or everybody’s opinion, if it means I can do things better in the future. I would, for example, like to know how Lucinda Fenton interpreted one part as “he wanted to leave as fast as possible, and yet the next minute he’s declaring his undying love for her.” But if the policy of the Durham21 theatre section is to dismiss anyone answer back to a review as “wounded pride”, which I hope it isn’t, then this will be a waste of time.

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    I am not expressing an opinion either way of what the reviewer set out to do. However, I am not the first person to have expressed scepticism about theatre reviews in Durham21, and I certainly don’t expect to be the last. However, whilst I respect that it is your job to defend the work of your reviewers, if you are critical of other people’s work, you can’t really complain if people are critical back.

    I do not wish to turn this into a sniping session. I am genuinely intersted in taking on board what people don’t like about my work, whether it’s one person’s opinion or everybody’s opinion, if it means I can do things better in the future. I would, for example, like to know how Lucinda Fenton interpreted one part as “he wanted to leave as fast as possible, and yet the next minute he’s declaring his undying love for her.” But if the policy of the Durham21 theatre section is to dismiss anyone answer back to a review as “wounded pride”, which I hope it isn’t, then this will be a waste of time.

  • Anonymous said:

    Have to say I agree with Chris. The reaction to his comments is typical of what I would expect from this site. ;o(

  • Anonymous said:

    Have to say I agree with Chris. The reaction to his comments is typical of what I would expect from this site. ;o(

  • Anonymous said:

    Have to say I agree with Chris. The reaction to his comments is typical of what I would expect from this site. ;o(

  • Jasper said:

    I have to say, Chris, I thought your piece was very one-dimensional and lacking in any sort of dramatic interest or originality. It’s great that DDF gives the opportunity for people to have a crack at writing, but I think you give your play a lot of credit where none is due.

    Oh, and if you think this is a little OTT, it’s cos your Hamlet comment made me simultaneously collapse on the floor in fits of laughter, eat my left shoe and throw up one of my lungs.

  • Jasper said:

    I have to say, Chris, I thought your piece was very one-dimensional and lacking in any sort of dramatic interest or originality. It’s great that DDF gives the opportunity for people to have a crack at writing, but I think you give your play a lot of credit where none is due.

    Oh, and if you think this is a little OTT, it’s cos your Hamlet comment made me simultaneously collapse on the floor in fits of laughter, eat my left shoe and throw up one of my lungs.

  • Jasper said:

    I have to say, Chris, I thought your piece was very one-dimensional and lacking in any sort of dramatic interest or originality. It’s great that DDF gives the opportunity for people to have a crack at writing, but I think you give your play a lot of credit where none is due.

    Oh, and if you think this is a little OTT, it’s cos your Hamlet comment made me simultaneously collapse on the floor in fits of laughter, eat my left shoe and throw up one of my lungs.

  • Anonymous said:

    The situation and characters that Shakespeare had created, definitely had potential for a lot of humour and also some pathos, but unfortunately these emotions were never evoked.

    Even if you are convinced, as everyone seems to be, that D21 writers are determined to hate theatre for the sake of it, do you seriously think that Hamlet would have garnered a similar review?

  • Anonymous said:

    The situation and characters that Shakespeare had created, definitely had potential for a lot of humour and also some pathos, but unfortunately these emotions were never evoked.

    Even if you are convinced, as everyone seems to be, that D21 writers are determined to hate theatre for the sake of it, do you seriously think that Hamlet would have garnered a similar review?

  • Anonymous said:

    The situation and characters that Shakespeare had created, definitely had potential for a lot of humour and also some pathos, but unfortunately these emotions were never evoked.

    Even if you are convinced, as everyone seems to be, that D21 writers are determined to hate theatre for the sake of it, do you seriously think that Hamlet would have garnered a similar review?

  • Gemma said:

    Chris,

    If you wish to discuss the ‘policy of the durham21 theatre section’ feel free to contact me by email.

    I just think it’s a shame you felt the need to disregard Fenton’s comments so summarily rather than respecting her opinion.

    That’s all.

  • Gemma said:

    Chris,

    If you wish to discuss the ‘policy of the durham21 theatre section’ feel free to contact me by email.

    I just think it’s a shame you felt the need to disregard Fenton’s comments so summarily rather than respecting her opinion.

    That’s all.

  • Gemma said:

    Chris,

    If you wish to discuss the ‘policy of the durham21 theatre section’ feel free to contact me by email.

    I just think it’s a shame you felt the need to disregard Fenton’s comments so summarily rather than respecting her opinion.

    That’s all.

  • Richard said:

    I saw all three of these plays and, if I’m brutally honest, I, like Lucia, was rather disappointed by the overall standard and turnout. Granted, perhaps it is unfair to be too critical given that these were amateur productions of new ‘talent’ but I found all of the productions to be lacking in believability. Sorry, Wrong Number, whilst displaying some potential, bought together two characters who were perhaps not best suited for the situation they found themselves in. The Taker, the taken etc, was painfully pretentious in the extreme and the hysterics of the young lady as ‘The Left’ embarassing. Don’t provoke the Monkey, although the most promising in title, was let down, like its predecessor, by a writer trying far too hard to create something ‘different’ but in the process losing sight of what theatre is about for most people – being entertained. As far as turnout went, I think, the fact that there seemed to be few in the audience from outside the Durham Student Theatre clique says a great deal about how this event is perceived by the theatre going public in this city. So, in summary, a disappointing and, at times, an uncomfortably pretentious evening.

  • Richard said:

    I saw all three of these plays and, if I’m brutally honest, I, like Lucia, was rather disappointed by the overall standard and turnout. Granted, perhaps it is unfair to be too critical given that these were amateur productions of new ‘talent’ but I found all of the productions to be lacking in believability. Sorry, Wrong Number, whilst displaying some potential, bought together two characters who were perhaps not best suited for the situation they found themselves in. The Taker, the taken etc, was painfully pretentious in the extreme and the hysterics of the young lady as ‘The Left’ embarassing. Don’t provoke the Monkey, although the most promising in title, was let down, like its predecessor, by a writer trying far too hard to create something ‘different’ but in the process losing sight of what theatre is about for most people – being entertained. As far as turnout went, I think, the fact that there seemed to be few in the audience from outside the Durham Student Theatre clique says a great deal about how this event is perceived by the theatre going public in this city. So, in summary, a disappointing and, at times, an uncomfortably pretentious evening.

  • Richard said:

    I saw all three of these plays and, if I’m brutally honest, I, like Lucia, was rather disappointed by the overall standard and turnout. Granted, perhaps it is unfair to be too critical given that these were amateur productions of new ‘talent’ but I found all of the productions to be lacking in believability. Sorry, Wrong Number, whilst displaying some potential, bought together two characters who were perhaps not best suited for the situation they found themselves in. The Taker, the taken etc, was painfully pretentious in the extreme and the hysterics of the young lady as ‘The Left’ embarassing. Don’t provoke the Monkey, although the most promising in title, was let down, like its predecessor, by a writer trying far too hard to create something ‘different’ but in the process losing sight of what theatre is about for most people – being entertained. As far as turnout went, I think, the fact that there seemed to be few in the audience from outside the Durham Student Theatre clique says a great deal about how this event is perceived by the theatre going public in this city. So, in summary, a disappointing and, at times, an uncomfortably pretentious evening.

  • Da Funk said:

    Oh Dear. It is a shame that this post-review discussion has turned a little bitter. What must be considered is that it is people like Chris who have the imagination to write a play in the first place. Yes, it may need tweaking or he may want to never see it on stage again. On the other hand, we might just have a very real talent right under our noses. Either way, constructive criticism should always be offered, otherwise it benefits no-one (including the readers of the review).

    I would be interested to know if the author has ever written a play of her own. The review lacks a real understanding of the effort, skill and undoubtable talent that Mr Neville-Smith has.

    Why not support Durham talent, instead of suffocate it?

  • Da Funk said:

    Oh Dear. It is a shame that this post-review discussion has turned a little bitter. What must be considered is that it is people like Chris who have the imagination to write a play in the first place. Yes, it may need tweaking or he may want to never see it on stage again. On the other hand, we might just have a very real talent right under our noses. Either way, constructive criticism should always be offered, otherwise it benefits no-one (including the readers of the review).

    I would be interested to know if the author has ever written a play of her own. The review lacks a real understanding of the effort, skill and undoubtable talent that Mr Neville-Smith has.

    Why not support Durham talent, instead of suffocate it?

  • Da Funk said:

    Oh Dear. It is a shame that this post-review discussion has turned a little bitter. What must be considered is that it is people like Chris who have the imagination to write a play in the first place. Yes, it may need tweaking or he may want to never see it on stage again. On the other hand, we might just have a very real talent right under our noses. Either way, constructive criticism should always be offered, otherwise it benefits no-one (including the readers of the review).

    I would be interested to know if the author has ever written a play of her own. The review lacks a real understanding of the effort, skill and undoubtable talent that Mr Neville-Smith has.

    Why not support Durham talent, instead of suffocate it?

  • Gemma said:

    It seems that the demand for us to creat a website where we never criticise anything is growing… ;-)

  • Gemma said:

    It seems that the demand for us to creat a website where we never criticise anything is growing… ;-)

  • Gemma said:

    It seems that the demand for us to creat a website where we never criticise anything is growing… ;-)

  • narayani said:

    I’m always intrigued by people’s use of the word ‘pretentious’, and it’s been used more than once on this page. To what exactly did the night’s plays make pretensions?

  • narayani said:

    I’m always intrigued by people’s use of the word ‘pretentious’, and it’s been used more than once on this page. To what exactly did the night’s plays make pretensions?

  • narayani said:

    I’m always intrigued by people’s use of the word ‘pretentious’, and it’s been used more than once on this page. To what exactly did the night’s plays make pretensions?

  • Richard said:

    In this context, I mean that your play seemed to be intended to attract notice and impress others, rather than entertain the audience. I think that a number of young, talented writers often concentrate too much on what they think the audience wants, rather than writing for themselves. Unfortunately, and whilst you are a clearly able writer, on this occasion, I think you fell into this trap. Sorry ;o(

    One last point before I leave this site, and its directed towards the site – you seem extremely happy to criticise others in your articles, but you’re not overly keen when visitors, using a facility you developed, use it to question your criticism. Sorry Gemma, but you let yourselves down there ;o(

  • Richard said:

    In this context, I mean that your play seemed to be intended to attract notice and impress others, rather than entertain the audience. I think that a number of young, talented writers often concentrate too much on what they think the audience wants, rather than writing for themselves. Unfortunately, and whilst you are a clearly able writer, on this occasion, I think you fell into this trap. Sorry ;o(

    One last point before I leave this site, and its directed towards the site – you seem extremely happy to criticise others in your articles, but you’re not overly keen when visitors, using a facility you developed, use it to question your criticism. Sorry Gemma, but you let yourselves down there ;o(

  • Richard said:

    In this context, I mean that your play seemed to be intended to attract notice and impress others, rather than entertain the audience. I think that a number of young, talented writers often concentrate too much on what they think the audience wants, rather than writing for themselves. Unfortunately, and whilst you are a clearly able writer, on this occasion, I think you fell into this trap. Sorry ;o(

    One last point before I leave this site, and its directed towards the site – you seem extremely happy to criticise others in your articles, but you’re not overly keen when visitors, using a facility you developed, use it to question your criticism. Sorry Gemma, but you let yourselves down there ;o(

  • Richard said:

    Oh…and your clocks an hour fast….. ;o)

  • Richard said:

    Oh…and your clocks an hour fast….. ;o)

  • Richard said:

    Oh…and your clocks an hour fast….. ;o)

  • Roddy said:

    I’ve noticed the clock’s fast. Never quite sure why.

    Dear Winker. The problem with the comments board is that as soon as a review goes up at the moment it’s like a full moon for a werewolf: everyone gets up tight and starts bitterly clawing at anyone in sight: fellow poster, reviewer, editors. We are a student website. We try to produce as professional reviews as possible and the quality of the writing on this award-winning site is consistently high. Admittedly it does dip now and then, but we’re not going to get a consistently Shakespeare-esque output without paying people. See my earlier point re: student website. Many of the shows in Durham, and I’ve said this too many times before, aim at professionalism. Many come damned close. We have one of the strongest theatrical cultures of any university in Britain. The Assembly Rooms is booked up over a year in advance. A critique here should not therefore be a school review thanking the children. It assumes professionalism and tries its best to judge it on that level. People seem only too happy to scream that despite efforts at professionalism, it’s still a student production, but then when the reviewer aims at the same professionalism, they get shot down and told to aim at being a student reviewer. Aim and product are not the same here: we aim at professionalism. We often produce professional-quality reviews. We also are often left with student reviews.

    The difference here is between constructively and politely disagreeing with the reviewer’s comments and just posting anonymous vitriol. Thank you to those who don’t. But the editors have a right to defend their writers if they feel they are being unjustifiably attacked by persistent individuals. And if that doesn’t work, the forum comes off. Free speech is a wonderful thing. Offence is not.

  • Roddy said:

    I’ve noticed the clock’s fast. Never quite sure why.

    Dear Winker. The problem with the comments board is that as soon as a review goes up at the moment it’s like a full moon for a werewolf: everyone gets up tight and starts bitterly clawing at anyone in sight: fellow poster, reviewer, editors. We are a student website. We try to produce as professional reviews as possible and the quality of the writing on this award-winning site is consistently high. Admittedly it does dip now and then, but we’re not going to get a consistently Shakespeare-esque output without paying people. See my earlier point re: student website. Many of the shows in Durham, and I’ve said this too many times before, aim at professionalism. Many come damned close. We have one of the strongest theatrical cultures of any university in Britain. The Assembly Rooms is booked up over a year in advance. A critique here should not therefore be a school review thanking the children. It assumes professionalism and tries its best to judge it on that level. People seem only too happy to scream that despite efforts at professionalism, it’s still a student production, but then when the reviewer aims at the same professionalism, they get shot down and told to aim at being a student reviewer. Aim and product are not the same here: we aim at professionalism. We often produce professional-quality reviews. We also are often left with student reviews.

    The difference here is between constructively and politely disagreeing with the reviewer’s comments and just posting anonymous vitriol. Thank you to those who don’t. But the editors have a right to defend their writers if they feel they are being unjustifiably attacked by persistent individuals. And if that doesn’t work, the forum comes off. Free speech is a wonderful thing. Offence is not.

  • Roddy said:

    I’ve noticed the clock’s fast. Never quite sure why.

    Dear Winker. The problem with the comments board is that as soon as a review goes up at the moment it’s like a full moon for a werewolf: everyone gets up tight and starts bitterly clawing at anyone in sight: fellow poster, reviewer, editors. We are a student website. We try to produce as professional reviews as possible and the quality of the writing on this award-winning site is consistently high. Admittedly it does dip now and then, but we’re not going to get a consistently Shakespeare-esque output without paying people. See my earlier point re: student website. Many of the shows in Durham, and I’ve said this too many times before, aim at professionalism. Many come damned close. We have one of the strongest theatrical cultures of any university in Britain. The Assembly Rooms is booked up over a year in advance. A critique here should not therefore be a school review thanking the children. It assumes professionalism and tries its best to judge it on that level. People seem only too happy to scream that despite efforts at professionalism, it’s still a student production, but then when the reviewer aims at the same professionalism, they get shot down and told to aim at being a student reviewer. Aim and product are not the same here: we aim at professionalism. We often produce professional-quality reviews. We also are often left with student reviews.

    The difference here is between constructively and politely disagreeing with the reviewer’s comments and just posting anonymous vitriol. Thank you to those who don’t. But the editors have a right to defend their writers if they feel they are being unjustifiably attacked by persistent individuals. And if that doesn’t work, the forum comes off. Free speech is a wonderful thing. Offence is not.

  • Richard said:

    Fair points. Everyone friends now? ;o)

  • Richard said:

    Fair points. Everyone friends now? ;o)

  • Richard said:

    Fair points. Everyone friends now? ;o)

  • Anonymous said:

    i’m afraid the reviewer had little or no respect for the perfect rhythm and impact of Taker… and in support of Hannah Brown’s ability, firstly, her character IS Hysteria- it’s the loneliness and despair of losing someone who defined their life. all the greater for the realisation that the feeling of love was not something she understood with him. that is an emptiness which can be understood only in terms of hysteria. And then- exactly where did the reviewer wish the Left’s character to ‘go’? in twenty minutes? it’s a One Act Festival, for heaven’s sake, not The First Act festival!
    Sorry for the rant, but there it is.

  • Anonymous said:

    i’m afraid the reviewer had little or no respect for the perfect rhythm and impact of Taker… and in support of Hannah Brown’s ability, firstly, her character IS Hysteria- it’s the loneliness and despair of losing someone who defined their life. all the greater for the realisation that the feeling of love was not something she understood with him. that is an emptiness which can be understood only in terms of hysteria. And then- exactly where did the reviewer wish the Left’s character to ‘go’? in twenty minutes? it’s a One Act Festival, for heaven’s sake, not The First Act festival!
    Sorry for the rant, but there it is.

  • Anonymous said:

    i’m afraid the reviewer had little or no respect for the perfect rhythm and impact of Taker… and in support of Hannah Brown’s ability, firstly, her character IS Hysteria- it’s the loneliness and despair of losing someone who defined their life. all the greater for the realisation that the feeling of love was not something she understood with him. that is an emptiness which can be understood only in terms of hysteria. And then- exactly where did the reviewer wish the Left’s character to ‘go’? in twenty minutes? it’s a One Act Festival, for heaven’s sake, not The First Act festival!
    Sorry for the rant, but there it is.

  • Hannah said:

    Hi, I am Hannah Brown, played the Left. I’d like to say that I found Lucinda Fenton’s review interesting, disappointing, realistic, helpful. If she thinks (for example) that my character was too hysterical, so be it! Hysteria may have been what the writer + director wanted, but is what the audience wants more important? Probably – or maybe not – but in the end, Lucinda (and Richard) may well be right about the way I played the Left, and I find the opinion a helpful constructive criticism to keep in mind. As people have suggested, we aren’t six-year-olds in a school play, and if we are making “pretensions” of professionalism, let’s act like it and not turn it all into a slanging match! Lucinda watched the plays as a reviewer and, as expected of her, wrote a review based on her own opinion, which is just as valuable as anyone else’s.

  • Hannah said:

    Hi, I am Hannah Brown, played the Left. I’d like to say that I found Lucinda Fenton’s review interesting, disappointing, realistic, helpful. If she thinks (for example) that my character was too hysterical, so be it! Hysteria may have been what the writer + director wanted, but is what the audience wants more important? Probably – or maybe not – but in the end, Lucinda (and Richard) may well be right about the way I played the Left, and I find the opinion a helpful constructive criticism to keep in mind. As people have suggested, we aren’t six-year-olds in a school play, and if we are making “pretensions” of professionalism, let’s act like it and not turn it all into a slanging match! Lucinda watched the plays as a reviewer and, as expected of her, wrote a review based on her own opinion, which is just as valuable as anyone else’s.

  • Hannah said:

    Hi, I am Hannah Brown, played the Left. I’d like to say that I found Lucinda Fenton’s review interesting, disappointing, realistic, helpful. If she thinks (for example) that my character was too hysterical, so be it! Hysteria may have been what the writer + director wanted, but is what the audience wants more important? Probably – or maybe not – but in the end, Lucinda (and Richard) may well be right about the way I played the Left, and I find the opinion a helpful constructive criticism to keep in mind. As people have suggested, we aren’t six-year-olds in a school play, and if we are making “pretensions” of professionalism, let’s act like it and not turn it all into a slanging match! Lucinda watched the plays as a reviewer and, as expected of her, wrote a review based on her own opinion, which is just as valuable as anyone else’s.

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    Now, I don’t normally blow my own trumpet, but seeing as I have long since abandoned my attempts to get any sort of constructive feeback from Ms. Fenton, I feel I ought to bring her up to date with the news that another one of my plays that I entered to the Little Theatre Guild’s playwriting competition last year apparently got as far as the regional finals. But never mind.

    Oh, and to answer an earlier question, you, you could easily write a scathing review of Hamlet if you looks for faults to pick out. Shakespeare, genius though he was, frequently overwrote, was frequently unnecesarily crude, at times got formulaic, and if you’re not into poetic dialogue, they’re not easiest of scripts to follow. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got reviewed with “The acting and script was ludicrous and wooden in the scene where Hamlet poisoned Ophelia’s mother.”

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    Now, I don’t normally blow my own trumpet, but seeing as I have long since abandoned my attempts to get any sort of constructive feeback from Ms. Fenton, I feel I ought to bring her up to date with the news that another one of my plays that I entered to the Little Theatre Guild’s playwriting competition last year apparently got as far as the regional finals. But never mind.

    Oh, and to answer an earlier question, you, you could easily write a scathing review of Hamlet if you looks for faults to pick out. Shakespeare, genius though he was, frequently overwrote, was frequently unnecesarily crude, at times got formulaic, and if you’re not into poetic dialogue, they’re not easiest of scripts to follow. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got reviewed with “The acting and script was ludicrous and wooden in the scene where Hamlet poisoned Ophelia’s mother.”

  • Chris Neville-Smith said:

    Now, I don’t normally blow my own trumpet, but seeing as I have long since abandoned my attempts to get any sort of constructive feeback from Ms. Fenton, I feel I ought to bring her up to date with the news that another one of my plays that I entered to the Little Theatre Guild’s playwriting competition last year apparently got as far as the regional finals. But never mind.

    Oh, and to answer an earlier question, you, you could easily write a scathing review of Hamlet if you looks for faults to pick out. Shakespeare, genius though he was, frequently overwrote, was frequently unnecesarily crude, at times got formulaic, and if you’re not into poetic dialogue, they’re not easiest of scripts to follow. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got reviewed with “The acting and script was ludicrous and wooden in the scene where Hamlet poisoned Ophelia’s mother.”

  • Dom said:

    I wonder where Chris Neville-Smith is now?

  • Birt said:

    I wonder why the anomaly that resulted in triplicate posting has now desisted.