Category Archives: Reviews

Wolf of Wall Street

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Scorsese’s latest picture is a three hour drug-fuelled, sex-driven marathon, with Leonardo Dicaprio taking the helm as a modern day Caligula. With one of his best films since the likes of Goodfellas and The Aviator, Scorsese gives us unadulterated access to the world of avarice, lust and amorality: Wall Street in the 90’s.

Based on the real life antics of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Dicaprio), a stock broker, who manages to scam clients into buying stock to make millions a week for his own company Stratton Oakmont. With the likes of Danny Porush (Jonah Hill), Belfort’s right hand man, and Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) Belfort’s wife, the supporting cast itself is worth the fee of admission. The often dark, comedic wittiness between Dicaprio and Hill, reminiscent of some of Robert De Niro’s and Joe Pesci’s most memorable scenes in Raging Bull and Goodfellas, captures the enticing nature of the debauchery these men led their lives with.

Though there are no moral judgements passed. There are no real consequences and comeuppance for these characters, which has led to outcries in America. Contrary to these claims of Scorsese glamorising this world, more likely it is that we are left to bring judgement to these characters as adults. We are not told to condemn or do anything except watch Belfort’s antics through his own eyes and judge for ourselves.

With the Wolf of Wall Street getting five Oscar nominations, and with other heavyweight contenders this year such as the powerful 12 Years a Slave, or the less masterly of them, American Hustle, there is no chance that the film will do a clean sweep. The best hope lying with Dicaprio is his best actor nomination. More importantly, as most of Scorsese’s films have attempted, this film is like a mirror being held at our society right now, which is why there have been so many damning critiques about its amorality and debauchery. We all accept that this level debauchery happens daily, but find it hard to accept it when shown to us on a screen.

But, as is the case, you’re left in awe and feel guilty for it. After the economic downpour we still suffer from, why are we left with this mixture in our mouths?  Or as we leave the cinema, or throughout the film when you’re titillated, and at times go along with the ‘bad’ man, why does that happen?  Maybe what best describes this is from one of the many monologues Dicaprio recites in the movie: “There’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and I choose rich every f*****g time. At least as a rich man, when I have to face my problems, I can show up in the back of a stretch limousine, wearing a two-thousand-dollar suit and a twenty-thousand-dollar gold watch! And, believe me, arriving in style makes your problems a helluva lot easier to deal with.” Maybe this is the message to be left with, all of us have that side to us, but it’s the Jordan Belfort’s and Danny Porush’s who can keep on pushing against restraint and trust. And many of us, with the right circumstances and changes, could potentially do the same and pick the rich life, the so-called good life.

By Shantok Jetha

Hetain Patel: At Home exhibition @ mac

at home‘Family’, one of the most obvious subject matters in the world, is filled with secrets and traditions. A side that no-one else in the world will ever see. The most universal topic in the world, yet rarely can its complexities be unravelled, if ever. Hetain Patel with this exhibition gives us a glimpse inside small characters, and scenarios involving his family. With a combination of video and photography he attempts to show us the personal with his own life being the centre of it all.

The exhibition includes the video ‘The First Dance’ which involves Patel’s wife as one of the main protagonists. She is involved again in the self-titled photographs ‘Eva’, showing us a glimpse into the couple’s relationship. Another installation, called ‘To Dance Like Your Dad’, focuses on the father – son relationship, and reminds us of our family legacy with its points on imitation.

Probably the most moving of all installations was the five-channel digital video titled ‘Mamai’. A portrait of Patel’s own grandmother going about her daily ritual of prayer every morning. It is quite affectionate, and in all of them she exhibits Patel’s recurring notions of faith and tradition, displayed through clothing in ‘The First Dance’ too. But, it’s Mamai which will pull on your heart. Perhaps because of the melancholy and sadness that is displayed on all of the screens, as through it all this is just an elderly lady sitting on a couch by herself singing hymns. After the decline of the body and memory with old age what is so poignant is the passion we witness as she is singing. This idea that keeps on coming up that our lives are our homes and families, and it is the small (considerably mundane) things we do daily is what define us. Mamai herself is a testament to this; she wipes her eyes one moment, picks at the seam of a nearby blanket and even fidgets with a napkin which never leaves her hands.

In 9 minutes with ‘Mamai’ Patel nearly brings you to tears, and a man who could do that in one installation is probably going to dwell in your mind, as with others who have seen the exhibition, for a long time.

By Shantok Jetha

The Best in Live Stand-up Comedy @ The Glee Club

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One of Birmingham’s best loved comedy nights is definitely at the Glee Club; situated in the Arcadian only a few minutes’ walk from New Street station and so is easily accessible by train. The Arcadian itself, however, is nothing like New Street or the Bull Ring. As a London lover, the Arcadian, though small, reminded me of a cross between Soho and Camden; with its quirky boutique stores, individually owned restaurants and interesting bars. In stark opposition to the hyper-commercialised nature of the majority of our city, the Arcadian is something just that bit different. Walking down the street toward the Glee Club you feel the atmosphere, and when I went I was kicking myself that I had not left enough time to eat at one of the restaurants as they all looked and smelled amazing. The Arcadian also boasts night clubs, and so is a different night out for those who are bored of Risa and Gatecrasher.

The Glee Club itself is a great place for an evening out that doesn’t revolve around the same clubs on Broad Street. We arrived early in order to soak up the feel of the place and waited in the lobby. Although it looks small, you feel as if you are in a secret little bar tucked away from everyone. The dim red lighting, comfortable armchairs and relaxing music makes everybody feel at ease. There was a bar here, but we decided to wait to get a drink in the room where we would be viewing the main performance. Once doors opened, we were quickly and efficiently taken to our seats and shown a menu. The room boasted a menu of averagely priced drinks, (around three pounds for a pint and four for a glass of wine) but it was the food on offer that really impressed me. There was a large selection and all at very competitive prices. The service of the waiters and waitresses is one of the quickest I have ever seen.

Around an hour after we arrived, the compere came on stage; a Mr Mikey D. I had not previously heard of any of the comedians performing on the night, but all were hilarious and had us in stitches. Mikey D was an Australian man who used accents hilariously and interacted with the audience, but only those who wanted to be interacted with (he didn’t pick on people). After a twenty minute set, he introduced the next comic, Ivo Graham. In his mid-twenties and with a posh London accent he reminded us both of Jack Whitehall, but was hysterical in his own right. Following this there was an interval, and then the other two comics, Carey Mark and Josh Howie performed. Every single comedian on the night was of a high quality, and even if they do not yet have high fame levels, I’m sure one day they will. The glee club also books incredibly famous comedians; Russell Howard has performed there and the legend that is Lee Evans is set to perform later this month.

Going to the glee club for the stand-up comedy night was an excellent evening out. If you want to eat, drink and laugh at the same time, I would definitely recommend it!

Josie Boston

Kill Your Darlings

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Allen Ginsberg is the man that made me love and write poetry. Not only did he introduce me to my biggest love, his opinions regarding literature, politics and sexuality often reflect my own, so to say that I revere him is an understatement.

Howl, the film about Ginsberg starring James Franco, is phenomenal. I was blown away by Franco’s ability to capture Ginsberg’s voice, intonation and mannerisms brilliantly. When I heard, then, that Daniel Radcliffe, master of wooden acting in the Harry Potter franchise and The Woman in Black, was taking on the role of my favourite poet, I was outraged. I’ve known about Kill Your Darlings for quite some time, and have been waiting for its release with trepidation. I expected that my experience of it would be riddled with disgust and a sardonic running commentary.

Contrary to popular belief, I like it when I’m proved wrong: just only when it’s for all the right reasons. Radcliffe was, quite honestly, great, and I’m not even ashamed to admit it. His accent was spot on (perhaps he didn’t quite reach Franco’s standard), and I was endeared by his performance of a young, impressionable Ginsberg.

What is Kill Your Darlings about, then? It follows Ginsberg after his acceptance into Columbia University, where he meets Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), an anti-establishment literary revolutionary, and some of the earliest members of the Beat Generation, including Jack Kerouac.

Of course, when you think of the Beat Generation, you think of sex, drugs and alcohol, and you get that in Kill Your Darlings: Ginsberg and co. write during Benzedrine binges, attend underground parties and never really seem to suffer from the consequences of their actions. It is common for this generation to glamorise the exploits of a former generation, but I do think that it is at least used carefully in this film: the glamorisation isn’t to the level of Great Gatsby, and the sex scenes are poignant, emotional and raw, not gratuitous.

These scenes, emotional or humorous (in fact, I was surprised at how much I laughed during this film) were carried by an incredible cast. DeHann, known for his appearance in The Place Beyond the Pines and his upcoming performance in The Amazing Spider Man 2, had incredible onscreen chemistry with Radcliffe; the sexual tension was palpable, and their bond was entirely believable. DeHaan’s angelic look is at odds with his character’s actions, and this only contributes to his allure.

Jack Huston also made an excellent Kerouac, embodying the man I have imagined since reading On the Road: at times he was excitable and frivolous; at others he handled the film’s more serious tone deftly. I also particularly enjoyed Ben Foster’s portrayal of William S. Burroughs; it was a far cry from his disturbing (but excellent) performance in Alpha Dog, indicating his talent. Michael C. Hall made a superb David Kammerer: he was unnerving and frustrating. It is easy to overstep the line when playing an obsessive character, but Hall handled it very well.

While the film concerns a literary movement, this is actually a film with love at its core – however clichéd that sounds. The film explores the difficulty of being homosexual – not only socially, but within the eyes of the law – and the troubled nature of relationships. The writers’ possible addiction to drugs is mirrored in their addiction to one another: romantically or intellectually, the friends become embroiled in difficult and messy relationships, to the extent that their morals are incredibly questionable.

Circles play an important role in this film, so the fact that the film’s structure and shots reflect this subtly is a display of the craftsmanship behind it: scenes are often played in reverse, and then replayed to mimic the movement of a spinning record. On the subject of music, the film’s soundtrack is excellently selected, mixing 1940s jazz, classical and modern songs (which didn’t actually feel anachronistic at all).

I was pleasantly surprised by Kill Your Darlings. I thought that I would have to compare it to Howl, and that Howl would inevitably win. However, I have now realised that to do so would be unfair: these films are entirely different and attempt to achieve something utterly unalike. This is a film that is beautifully and intelligently shot and features some excellent actors. It is an accolade when a film makes it onto my DVD shelf; I think Kill Your Darlings will be joining Howl very soon. 

By Jenna Clake
@jennaclake

Watch This theatre presents: ‘Method’, a new play by Ben Norris

DavidMethod was written and directed by twenty-one year old Ben Norris. One might think after watching this play, if this guy is writing this at twenty-one, what is he going to be writing when he’s thirty? The sheer scope of converting script to performance is achievement enough.

The play highlights the extremes of method acting, a technique used by actors where they immerse themselves in the physical and emotional feelings of their character in order to improve their performance. In this case, the main character James glues his eyes shut in preparation for an audition; the role of a blind man. Norris has captured the theme of sightlessness throughout as the characters seem consistently blind to what is going on around them. Paradoxically, the young child named Josie, brilliantly acted by Rachel Thomas, seems to be the only character that can truly see.

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The relationships in the play were believable, if at times a little over-sentimental. Daisy Edwards, who played James’s mum Sandra, played a truly convincing walked-over mum figure, right down to posture and tone of voice. The opening scene, where a relationship between a man and woman begins after meeting in a restaurant was both beautifully written and performed. Nicole Rixon’s character persuasively morphed from a confident, knowledgeable woman into a struggling single mum.

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The main cusp of the play is the broken relationship between the two brothers, James and Nick. Jealously seems to be at the core of this and Norris’s reflection that the characters are ‘blind to how to help themselves’ seems ever more pervasive. My criticism is that the resolution of the brother’s relationship does not seem realistic. After James’s eyes are glued shut, Nick is so relieved that his brother will be okay that they hug and play thumb war. Although the reversal back to their childish games is effective, it is not particularly convincing. The horror, however, of what James has done overrides this. It is sick, shocking and admittedly entertaining.

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Overall, this play raises current, thought-provoking questions involving the pressures of the acting industry, broken family relationships and betrayal. A combination of live theatre and digital film projections, especially, makes this play original. The film projections, by filmmaker Paul McHale, were incredibly realistic; strikingly shot and directed. The contrast of live acting and watching the actors on film created an appreciation of seeing them live. It plays with the theme of blindness once more as at some points in the play you are shown everything and in some scenes, nothing.

By Rebekah McDermott @RebekahMcD1

Photographs by Charlotte Wilson Photography

Article 19 presents: ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

Making a sixteenth century Shakespearean comedy appeal to a twenty-first century audience is a daunting task, but Article 19’s take on The Taming of the Shrew left the audience in stitches. Set in Padua, it portrays a battle between the sexes in which Petruchio sets out to tame his vicious and feisty bride Kate, known as a ‘shrew’ for her sharp tongue.

The adaptation stuck to the original script and included the original framing device, often omitted in some performances, where a nobleman puts on a play to trick a drunken Christopher Sly. This seemed slightly unecessary, as although it was meant to be comical, it was one of the actor’s wigs accidentally falling off that drew the most laughter from the audience.

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The play really got going when the main characters burst onto the stage squabbling with each other and talking over one another. The music throughout brilliantly complemented this, evoking both the chaos of the play and the Italian setting very well. Zoe Fabian’s spirited portrayal of Kate was very compelling- playing her as vicious at first but later revealing her vulnerable side when she believes she has been stood up at the altar by Petruchio.

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It is in the dashing Petruchio, played by Jack J. Fairley, that Kate meets her match. The scene in which they first meet was the highlight of the play for me. The chemistry between the two actors was incredible and they really brought to life Shakespeare’s sexual innuendos and the characters’ witty sparring.

Other standout performances came from Jamie Hughes playing Gremio: a wealthy elderly suitor of Kate’s sister, Bianca. Hobbling about the stage with his cane, he was the most believable character and had me and my friend in tears of laughter with his patronising voice and false laughter. Andy Baker was also hilarious as bumbling servant Biondello, whilst simultaneously suggesting that his character is actually more socially aware than the others. It almost seems unfair to pick out certain performances though, as the entire cast were genuinely excellent.

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What was particularly unique about this production was the way it encouraged audience participation, such as when the cast sat alongside the audience to watch the wedding ceremony- transforming the audience into fellow guests. The brilliantly raucous ending had us in stiches but most of all, and perhaps most importantly, you could tell that the cast were having a good laugh too. Because of this they were able to bring one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies to life. On the basis of this performance, I would highly recommend that UoB students go and watch future Article
19 performances; great theatre at a great price, right on your doorstep

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By Ellicia Pendle   @elliciapendle

CBSO Friday Night Classics: A Wonderful Christmastime

A relaxed and festive atmosphere met the audience of the Symphony Hall on Friday, 13th December 2013, as the CBSO took to the stage to begin the Christmas Celebrations in earnest. Conductor Carl Davis took charge of the orchestra for the evening, and from start to finish, he was a man possessed – dancing his way through Christmas Classics such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Wonderful Christmastime, and Let it Snow! with the liveliness and enthusiasm of one tasked with instilling that Christmassy feeling into the hearts of each and every audience member.

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Right from the very start, Davis’s Christmas cheer was infectious. He was able to put a really personal spin on the evening’s proceedings, aided in no small way by his playful chats with the audience, in between each number. Indeed, audience participation was the order of the day here, as, in many of the Christmas favourites, such as When a Child is Born, Davis would turn to the audience and gesture for them to sing along.

The performances of the two soloists further added to this festive feeling. Lance Ellington, of Strictly Come Dancing fame, was smooth throughout, giving a particularly velvety rendition of The Christmas Song. Ellington’s co-star, Katy Treharne, gave an equally stellar performance, culminating in her touching delivery of Niles’s I Wonder As I Wander. The pair enjoyed great chemistry, especially in duets such as Baby it’s Cold Outside.

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It was above all, however, the orchestra that stole the show, performing beautifully arranged, traditional Christmas classics with skill and ease. Whether accompanying the vocalists, or performing festive favourites such as A Christmas Overture by Hess, and Prokofiev’s Troika from Lieutenant Kijé, the CBSO constantly entertained its audience. The players were also game for some festive frivolity, as, after the interval, the majority of them reappeared wearing assorted Christmas paraphernalia; knitwear, tinsel clad instruments, Santa hats, and reindeer antlers. Conductor Carl Davis also got in on the act; he resurfaced after the interval (to his biggest cheer of the evening) wearing a resplendent red suit and tails – which, along with his mane of white hair, resulted in more than a passing resemblance to Chris Cringle himself.

CBSO_Dress_Rehearsal_2011_166.sizedFittingly then, it was Davis who would produce more delightful presents for the audience. The second half proceeded in even more of a ‘song and dance’ style than the first, culminating in the energetic encore, Wizzard’s I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day. This capped a fine evening, as Davis and the orchestra went into Christmas party overdrive – the audience were ordered to their feet for the biggest sing-and-dance-a-long of the evening. Leaving Symphony Hall, I could not help but carry with me a huge smile and a large helping of Christmas Cheer. With the big event nearly upon us, this concert was the perfect way to kick off the festive season.

By James Parsliffe     @jamesparsliffe

A Christmas Carol @ The Rep

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Having been a fan of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol for as long as I can remember, I absolutely jumped at the chance to see the Tessa Walker production taking place over Christmas at The Rep Theatre in Birmingham. Having seen many prior adaptations of this Christmas favourite, my expectations for The Rep’s production were admittedly quite high, and the cast, crew, orchestra and set certainly did not disappoint.

The play opened in a way I hadn’t seen before, with a collection of rather ominous figures that we soon came to recognise as ghosts, discussing the unfortunate case of Ebenezer Scrooge – the story’s incredibly grouchy, miserable protagonist.  The ghosts introduced the story of Scrooge and his misery by setting him challenges from the beyond, from which we see the original events of the story, like him refusing to donate to charity despite the pleas of the impassioned collectors. This way of introducing the audience to the character of Scrooge was excellent, and rather haunting, while also introducing the concept of the ghosts we see later on in the production. The expected Scrooge actor, Matthew Ashforde, was unfortunately absent, and so was played by his understudy, Jo Servi. However, this by no means detracted from the quality of the show, Servi delivering a spectacular and lively performance as Scrooge, no mean feat for an understudy perhaps not expecting to perform.

The beginning of the play contained the darker, more ominous songs of the ghosts condemning Scrooge, interspersed with the more jovial, cheery songs of the humans around Scrooge, excitedly anticipating the coming of Christmas. This was a great way of retaining the menacing presence of the ghosts, whilst still keeping the audience aware of Scrooge’s human world. This also excellently demonstrated the clear contrast between Scrooge’s wretched mood, and that of the excitable attitude of his peers, in particular his nephew Fred, whose naturally good-humoured attitude actor Roddy Peters captured perfectly.

The cast consisted of only eleven actors, and so many were required to perform multiple roles. This in no way whatsoever distracted from the content of the play, and in fact, could almost have gone completely unnoticed had you not been aware of the fact before the play began. This even made for some comic moments in the play, one male actor portraying the role of a rather large, absent-minded aunt hilariously. The child actors in this production can also not go uncredited, excellently playing the roles of young family members and carol singers. The young actress playing the sickly Tiny Tim character also adorably captured the character’s innocence and inherent good-nature, so much so that the audience cannot help but feel genuine sympathy and affection for the Cratchits’ youngest child.

Despite the jubilant feeling of Christmas, the point of the book, and of the play, is that Scrooge is to learn his lesson on the repercussions of his selfishness and cold nature before he is able to fully appreciate the joys of the Christmas atmosphere and those around him. The appearance of the silent ghost of Christmas yet to come was a haunting yet incredibly effective device in doing this. The production brought onto the stage a huge structure of a skeletal, bird-like figure who stayed eerily quiet, despite Scrooge’s constant questions. This was really effective in adding a menacing feel to the play, and was done so well that you almost felt the fear of Scrooge yourself, in the audience.

However, the play, of course, ended on the expected and welcome note of joviality, Scrooge having finally discovered his true Christmas spirit, and endeavouring to give back to all those he had previously  wronged, like the Cratchit family, and his nephew Fred’s own family. The play ended with a suitably upbeat, happy Christmas song that left the audience well and truly revelling in their own genuine Christmas spirit. If you get a chance to head to The Rep to see this production over the festive period, I highly recommend you do so.

By Amy Hunt

GMTG presents: Spring Awakening @The Guild of Students

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On 29th November 2013, I went to see Jake Dorrell’s interpretation of Spring Awakening, set in oppressive 19th Century Germany. Dubbed one of the most ‘controversial’ plays of its time, the original play was banned in Germany for addressing the devastating consequences of exploring the ‘mysteries of your body’ in a society that denied its youth any insight into precisely that.

Having never really been exposed to the genre of a ‘serious’ musical, I went in with fairly naive impressions. I considered the likelihood of mild peril, perhaps even the possibility of a little trouble and strife, but I did not question the ending. Surely every musical has a happy ending…right?  Wrong.

This was not a musical for the faint-hearted. The play centred on adolescent suicide, the consequences of premarital sex and homosexuality. All of these would have been taboo topics, therefore one can appreciate how daring Sater’s musical would have been at the time it was originally written.

The harrowing consequences of pubescent curiosity were extremely hard hitting, and personally I felt as though they were portrayed admirably, with each actor allowing the audience a brief yet consuming insight into their lives.

The performances were undoubtedly enhanced by the personal stories that had been offered up to cast members in rehearsals, who had the unique insights given to them by working closely with the LGBTQ society. This added another dimension to the performances, which came across as even more impressive when presented as a direct juxtaposition to the surrealism which consumed the performance.

When the musical began I felt as though I had been thrust into Tim Burton’s imagination.

The surrealist set design and costume were reminiscent of Berkoff’s The Trial, and complemented the cast perfectly in their mono-chromic attire and ghoul-like stage make-up. The quirky costume design, by Maysie Chandler, inspired visions of innocence through the younger characters and images of corrupted authority through the exaggerated shoulders of Headmaster Knochenbruch.

In saying this, it must be noted that the messages conveyed within the show maintained the focal point for the duration of the performance, which is an impressive feat when considered alongside two projection screens with elaborate videos of memories/eerie projections of the deceased, a live band performing backstage and a cast of twenty actors!

The only slight criticism I will (reluctantly) offer is that of the use of hand-held microphones. I fully appreciate that this aspect of the show is minimal (!) and was probably due to limitations of being at University and not having access to a variety of resources, however I feel as though it slightly stunted the transition from scene to song; and would have helped the musical’s fluidity.

All in all, the show was an impressive piece of theatre. It was evident that everyone involved had invested an awful lot of time and effort into making each performance immaculate, and it was fully appreciated by all audience members, me especially.

Hayley Yates

Infinity Stage Company Present: Mercury Fur @ The Guild of Students

mercury furHaving seen more than my fair share of plays, whether they are professional or student productions, I judge the quality of a show by how quickly I want to write my review after it (even if I’m not technically reviewing). It’s 11.18 pm and I finished watching Mercury Fur about an hour ago. I probably would have sat down sooner if I wasn’t physically shaking.

Philip Ridley’s Mercury Fur has a history of controversy: famously banned by Faber & Faber, this play follows a set of closely intertwined characters in an almost-apocalyptic world in which butterflies are drugs and ‘party’ is synonymous with your darkest fantasies. The characters spew lines of racist slurs, beat each other and themselves, and draw the audience into their intense relationships.

This is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting scripts I have witnessed. The characters are so distinct (with the intentional exception of the Party Piece) and complex, each simultaneously lost in a state almost akin to childhood, and sadistic. Ridley is able to showcase his prowess by writing Elliot’s insults as epic similes; this is highlighted by his ability to then undercut this often satirical and humorous style with a conversation wrought with emotion.

 I am extremely passionate about ‘in-yer-face’ theatre: Ravenhill’s and Kane’s plays are on my shelves, and yet I have unfortunately not been able to see them performed. To call a text ‘in-yer-face’ seems to miss the point, I have realised after tonight’s Mercury Fur. What makes it so disturbing, so violating, is actually being in the presence of it.

Director Jacob Lovick absolutely understood the importance of this. Staged in the basement rehearsal room of the Guild, the audience was instantly removed from the student bubble and into a dingy flat strewn with the signs of depleting life. The play utilised the whole space, creating a sense of claustrophobia: the characters moved around the audience, absorbing them into the world of the play. The lack of interval was also a nice touch (a la Shopping and F***ing): there was no escape from the unrelenting emotions.

 It really does take a stellar cast to pull off a play like this: get it slightly wrong, and the uncomfortableness you’re trying to create will be plain awkward. This cast not only succeeded in making me cry a grand total of three times (which is quite a feat; I’ve only ever cried at five films and maybe one play), but made me feel physically uncomfortable: I couldn’t sit back in my chair, I wanted to escape and stay simultaneously, my skin was crawling and I was shaking at the end of the performance.

 I was utterly astounded by the quality of the acting in this production; not only did I forget that I was watching a play in the Guild, I forgot that I was watching students act. Calum Witney was by far the stand-out member of this cast. His accent and ability to master Elliot’s swings of emotion was phenomenal. Ben Firth also made an excellent Darren: he was able to capture his naivety and pure adoration of Elliot. I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Witney and Firth; I truly believed in their bond as brothers, not only through Ridley’s writing, but the actors’ execution of it.

When Naz was introduced into the mix, I instantly prickled: Ridley introduces a character that is quite frankly annoying. However, Alice Hodgson made her loveable. I felt sincere concern for the character, and was utterly horrified when I realised her fate. Additionally, Hodgson’s performance of Naz’s monologues and her character post-torture were incredibly convincing and very distressing to watch.

David Williams was a genius choice for Lola. The text calls for a man to play this part, but at times Williams’s mannerisms and expressions were so convincing I almost forgot his sex. The chemistry between Witney and Williams was also entirely believable, and I found the scenes between the characters incredibly touching.

Daisy Tudor was fantastic as The Duchess, deftly exploring her character’s tortured mental state through carefully selected movements and delivery of lines. Pairing her with Danny Hetherington as Spinx was also a brilliant move: while I was oddly intrigued by and pitying of The Duchess, Spinx’s devotion to her was unsettling, and Hetherington’s ability to switch into Spinx’s sadistic mode was excellent. Jack Fairley still made an impression with his minor role: the Party Guest was utterly creepy and disgusting from the moment he stepped into the room, let alone when he revealed his dark fantasy.

The crew of this production must also be praised highly: the effects and make-up used in the play were very convincing; I felt entirely immersed in the world of Mercury Fur.

The point of in-yer-face theatre is to push its audience to the very limits. There were points during the performance where I really wanted to leave but was oddly impelled to stay. What I struggled with was my desire to stop it – I really did feel like it was all unfolding around me – and also the range of emotions I experienced: at one moment I would be disturbed and sickened; a matter of seconds later, I would be laughing, and I felt incredibly unnerved  by this. This is why I love plays like Mercury Fur: at the end, I feel like someone has reached inside my body, pulled something out and made me really look at it. With in-yer-face theatre, the audience is made to look at themselves and assess how they would act in certain situations or evaluate their behaviour and emotions. There is betrayal at every level in this play, sadism, cruelty, anger, and love. It is a truly exceptional example of postmodern nihilism and an intense exploration of the human state, and I (strangely) loved every minute of it.

by Jenna Clake
@jennaclake