Review: Still Life: A Double Bill at The XWWX Gallery (03/10/14)

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3.5 stars

Since they hit the stage with a fantastic production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible back in May, things have been quiet from fledgling company Broken Arrow. It turns out they’ve been holed up preparing this double bill of original writing – a production on a completely different scale to The Crucible – and the wait has been well worth it.

The first of the two pieces is Closing Time by Alexander Curtis, which takes place in a cafe where the characters are doomed to repeat the last hour of the day over and over – think Groundhog Day – but are seemingly unaware of this. While Closing Time was by no means uninteresting, its overriding fault was the attempt to get so much across in such a short space of time. The audience were subjected to various verbose monologues as well as a seemingly random movement piece, and in the space of fifty minutes, this left little space for some of the more accessible components – both performances given by Lucy Hughes and Sarah Divall (as First and Third Old Woman respectively) were impressive, but limited. There’s no doubt that Curtis is a talented writer, but there’s something to be said about a piece of theatre that leaves a large majority of its audience unsure as to what they just witnessed. I was told after the performance that Closing Time was supposed to be a comedy; the audience I was sat amongst certainly weren’t in on the joke.

J. Alexander Forster’s piece, Tar, by contrast, hit the nail on the head. Forster’s script is moving, and remarkably refreshing. Theatre about addiction is not uncommon, but Forster’s approach to the theme is: Tar doesn’t attempt to ‘discuss’ the issues it displays, or take a moral standpoint, but rather uses drug culture as the setting for the relationship between protagonists Stitch (Joseph Curran) and Gaz (Alexander Curtis). Performances from both actors were faultless; Curran giving an expert portrayal of Stitch, physically and emotionally weathered by his lifestyle and Curtis wide-eyed and naive as Gaz. Supported by a measured and understanding Divall as social worker Kez, a flighty Olivia Whyte as addict Fran, a foreboding Amy Fitzgibbon as dealer Tiger and a comically flawless Mike Cottrell as college kid Dabble, the cast carry Forster’s story with ease, producing a play that kept the audience gripped from start to finish.

This double bill has proven, again, that Broken Arrow clearly have the drive and unlimited talent to experiment with various platforms of theatre – it’ll be interesting to see where they decide to take things next.

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What do you do with a BA in English? Well, not a lot, which is why Caitlin also works as Deputy Editor here as well as being Head of Events and Marketing for SUSU Performing Arts, on top of blogging and communications for SUSU. After spending an unhealthy amount of her adolescence on the stage, she's taken to slagging other people off for their efforts. Aspiring theatre critic and all-round sassy queen.

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