Beginning, Middle, End

Tue 15th – Sat 19th November 2011

reviews

Sinead Hynes

at 01:18 on 16th Nov 2011

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Three stages – beginning, middle, and end.

A project by Oliver Rees which began 6 months ago, “Beginning, Middle, End” used as inspiration stories from hundreds of Cambridge students who needed a little help to get their own fairy-tale in motion.

Anonymous texts were sent, roses were delivered and notes were dispatched around the city to love-keen students in the months preceding the show. The idea behind it? The create real-life love stories here in Cambridge.

A real-life enactment of three, different but familiar, love stories was the idea of the show. University-bound students of varying backgrounds made up all but one of the characters. Each stage of the story was given 20 minutes. The couples gave us a glimpse into what they could see as the moments defining the three stages of their relationships.

The couples were each under the direction of three different sets of directors which works marvellously. The different acting and directing style could be seen throughout, while still the directors managed to compliment each other’s style.

The actors were brilliantly believable as both couples and individuals trying to figure out their own relationships. The awkwardness of the younger couple at the start was so cringe-worthy that you couldn't but believe it to be real. The movements, facial expressions and twitchings of Sophie Crawford as Alice were exceptional but so natural as to almost go unnoticed as a character trait that you soon almost got used to. The PhD student/supervisor relationship was uncomfortable and the empathy I felt with Lisa had me wishing for her “End” with Jack to comes around soon, soon, soon.

Audience inclusion in the story added greatly to the experience of the show. The simple gesture of writing a note to put in a box on stage before the start got interest and conversation going before the characters were even introduced. You feel a part of the story. This is even more true if you were one of the hundreds of students who sent or received a text or a flower as art of this project. A booklet is given out too which explains more behind the project and gives examples of love stories that were sent in to the project.

The show finishes with your own Happy Ending. It is difficult not to leave with a positive feeling (the audience were after all in fits laughing from the start) and hope in present and future relationships regardless of the fate of the onstage couple’s relationships. A very enjoyable production and project as a whole, especially perfect for this stage of term.

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Will Midgley

at 09:59 on 16th Nov 2011

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From the start (or the Beginning?) this venture comes across as an ambitious and philanthropic project: using real-life stories, it shows how relationships grow, blossom and then come to an end. After sending 800 romantic texts and 500 roses on behalf of hundreds of star-crossed lovers, Oliver Rees has collated these stories and created a script that deftly portrays the three different stages (Beginning, Middle, End) of three different relationships.

On entering the show, audience members are asked to describe the beginning of their love story (real or imagined) on the back of a card. This serves to kick-start the feelings of nostalgia and empathy which this production continues to provoke throughout.

The set is simple, just two chairs, a table and a white backdrop. The backdrop serves as a screen onto which an emotive prologue (complete with soundtrack) is projected, and then is cunningly used for establishing scenery for the various romantic episodes.

The entire cast played their parts incredibly convincingly, though this could be ascribed to the relatively unchallenging nature of many of these roles, predominantly teenagers falling in and out of love. Nonetheless, such vibrant, consistent and seamless acting is rare and therefore refreshing to see.

First come Alice and Dominic (Sophie Crawford and Henry Carr), Beginning their relationship on a blind date. The awkwardness in this scene is palpable, toying with those embarrassing moments from which so many relationships spring and with which we are all well acquainted. Crawford and Carr work in harmony on stage, with Carr portraying the disinterested/aloof boyfriend to perfection, eliciting many a scoff and raised eyebrow from the crowd. Possibly the more quotidian of the three relationships, it engaged the audience despite this, with a disdain for Dominic developing as the relationship (and the play) progressed.

Next is the somewhat distressing tale of Lisa - a grad student - and her supervisor, Jack (Deli Segal and Lewis Owen). Owen embraces this role superbly, making the audience visibly squirm with his discourse on the physical nature of love and the ‘entwining of souls’. By the End of this relationship though, the audience is impressed by Lisa’s fortitude, and could almost feel sorry for the downtrodden Jack.

Finally we have the all-too-familiar tale of long-distance love, told through the characters Izzy and Sam (Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey and Jack Parlett). Of the three, this story tugged at the heartstrings especially painfully. The most memorable scene in the production was an ill-fated Skype call in the Middle of the relationship, a commentary on how intense emotional moments are degraded by the gulf of distance, and interrupted by unreliable wireless internet. The programme sums up this frustration succinctly: “The only thing you can do is ‘end call’, not even half as satisfying [as slamming doors]”. Nicholson-Lailey and Parlett made a convincing team, not blinking at the more intimate moments demanded by the script.

Turning briefly to the technical aspects of this production, creative use was made of the Corpus Playroom’s lighting rig, which added an effective touch to scenes such as Izzy and Sam’s ill-fated Skype call and a street-side night-time encounter between Jack and Lisa.

Oliver Rees clearly writes with the demographic of his audience members in mind. Emotive stories with easily accessible dialogue is the order of the day, but the production is stronger for it: no need for pseudo-intellectual witticisms or drawn-out, self-congratulating soliloquies. Just stories about (real) relationships, plain and simple.

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