Launch: The Decision is Yours

Tue 6th – Sat 10th October 2015

reviews

Eleanor Costello

at 01:03 on 11th Oct 2015

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In an age of outstanding drama on our television and cinema screens, it’s sometimes tempting to wonder whether one day the theatre will become obsolete. And then, a play like Launch comes along. Brilliantly written, flawlessly acted, and beautifully directed, this is a testament to all that modern theatre could and should be.

Launch is set in a nuclear submarine in a post-apocalyptic future, where the crew wrangle with the almost impossible decision of whether to launch their nuclear weapons. It’s a highly topical and controversial subject, and one which writer and director Marcus Martin explores with a very human and psychological slant.

The set is deceptively simple; comprised of large control panels filled with switches, metal bars encircling the small stage, and flickering blue overhead lights, it effectively conveys a sense of claustrophobia. To this end, the space of the Corpus Playroom worked to an advantage; the small, dark, hot space closed in. The play exploded with tension; it opened with a series of flashing lights, exposing the actors frozen in a series of haunting still images. Music vibrated through the theatre, and as the lights came up the energy and pace remained relentless. There was no restless shifting in the audience, no checking of watches. We were submerged with the cast in this terrible, gripping dilemma, and tension drummed through the room, culminating in a nail-biting climax that was deliciously painful.

The five-person cast had no weak point. Rhodri Hughes and Megan Dunne initially set the audience at ease with playful sarcasm as they added a touch of very British black humour to the dire situation, but it was the relationship between Charlie Houseago and Dunne which took over the second half of the play. Initially an unlikely pairing, they provided two sides of the same coin, arguing and provoking each other, but ultimately united in their fear and misery. Martin stated that ‘Each of the five characters is based on someone you know. Someone whose loyalties, rationalities, strengths, weaknesses, loves, and hates you in some way recognise.’ Despite the clashes between the characters and their divergent approaches, they were all easy to identify with. In an hour-long production we only touched the surface of these complex characters, whom we certainly could have delved deeper into. Captain Storm in particular, the tortured Captain of the ship, determined come what may to complete his mission, could have been further exposed. Played rigidly by Colin Rothwell, it would have been very satisfying to have seen the character pushed to his absolute limits.

However, the relatively short length of the piece added to its impact; intense, unpredictable, and clever, this was a production that kept the audience guessing. Upon leaving I felt that I had been violated in some way – drained, and thoroughly exhausted by the emotional trauma I had been wrung through. The play raises endless questions over the nature of loyalty and morality, yet it gives the audience space to ponder these questions, to come to their own conclusions.

A perfect way to spend an hour, this was student theatre at its very best.

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