Monday night (April 30th) saw the official premiere of the high-budget period drama A Game of Sport, produced by members of SUSUtv, Performing Arts and Wessex Films, in the Union Cinema. Written by SUSUtv Assistant Manager Jamie Chadd and directed by SUSUtv Station Manager-elect Carly Brown and PAU Executive Sam Beath, the period drama — which cost in the region of £1,200 to produce — was displayed to an enthusiastic crowd of around 150 students, after its unfortunately unsuccessful nominations in the categories of Best Drama and People’s Choice Award at this year’s NaSTA Awards.
The creation of A Game of Sport was a joint venture between a large number of students, with SUSUtv leading the technical production and direction of the film, Wessex Films handling most of the camera work, and Performing Arts providing the majority of the acting. Starring in the film as the subjects of the ‘game of sport’ in question are Hannah Cutting as the to-be-wed sister Charlotte Kingsley, and Jonny Baynham and Nick Barclay as the potential husbands Edward Montague-Swansworth and Rupert Barnaby-Walker, respectively. Supporting characters include Kingsley’s sisters Anne Fleetwood (Ashleigh Clowes) and Emily Worthington (Hannah Griffiths), as well as their husbands (the opposing parties in the contest) Charles Fleetwood (Joel Jackson) and Thomas Worthington (Sam Jenkins-Shaw), respectively. The main story centres around a competition between the sisters of the unmarried Kingsley and their husbands to find the best candidate for the third sister, with the former pitching the interesting and unassuming Montague-Swansworth and the latter putting forward the pompous and overblown Barnaby-Walker.
Attempting a fully-fledged period drama as a group of students was always going to be an extremely bold move, but in the interests of brevity it shall be put this way: Brown, Beath, and everyone else involved did an absolutely staggering job. To probe a little deeper, there are many important points to be made about A Game of Sport. Two of the main concerns I heard from students during the development period were (1) that a period drama might not be something desired by a whole lot of students, and (2) that, due to the sensitive and large-scale nature of the production, the acting in the finished product might turn out to be a bit — for lack of a better word — cringeworthy. Thankfully both of these issues proved irrelevant upon viewing of the film: I’ve never had an interest in period dramas, but still very much enjoyed the film; and the acting was incredible. Honestly, how A Game of Sport was ever beaten to the Best Drama NaSTA this year is beyond me.
Firstly, let’s speak about the acting in question. The casting was absolutely spot on: everyone who was given a role — major or minor — was perfect for that part, and executed their character with brilliant precision and passion. Cutting as the third sister, slightly more shy but still open about her feelings, was well chosen, as were Clowes as the enthusiastic, bright-eyed sister and Griffiths as the fantastically scowling and over-bearing sister. Husbands Jackson and Jenkins-Shaw also performed to an amazingly high standard, with spot-on accents and mannerisms throughout, and as the competitors Baynham and Barclay were also fantastic. Gwen the Maid (Jessica Woolley), who late in the film plays an important role, was a particular highlight of the minor characters. Within the realm of acting, special mention must also be given to scriptwriter Jamie Chadd, who in A Game of Sport has produced something arguably (in this reviewer’s opinion) worthy of use on ‘proper’ television. Mind you, that can probably be said about every element of this production: the camera work, the editing, the sound (mostly) — all of it was top-notch.
Perhaps interestingly, one thing I noticed with the acting was that Cutting was (in the nicest way possible) slightly overshadowed by the performances of her on-screen sisters. All three actresses were fantastic, but the talents of Clowes and Griffiths — especially in the context of delivering lines — were unfortunately slightly more exciting. Of course, this is not to put Cutting down, as she did a fantastic job as the character she was given; perhaps what might have been expected were Cutting and Griffiths as two apathetic and uninterested sisters, with Clowes as the bubbling bachelorette looking for a husband. Obviously, though, this would mess with the whole dynamic of the film and would completely negate the careful composition of the script and characters.
The story of A Game of Sport is genuinely riveting, and surprisingly easy to engage with. There is a very well-balanced mix of comedy and drama, although annoyingly some moments were marked with laughter clearly based on in-jokes (of which ‘fresh’ viewers like myself were not a part). Overall though, the story was really well set out, and the twist is also a welcome feature at the end, and executed to perfection by the actors. Also of note, and which may be overlooked by many casual viewers, is the original music composed by Andy Willson, a third-year music student at Southampton, who on this film has shown his pure skill and judgment for producing film scores which work fluently with the action on-screen. I found it amazing how every part of the film complemented every other part of it so well; it was extremely fulfilling to see a much talked-about production come to life in such a way that is genuinely incredible to experience, and for that SUSUtv, Performing Arts and Wessex Films should be proud.
After the main feature, which received rapturous applause all-round, Beath introduced the special features to be shown, namely a behind-the-scenes clip and an outtakes reel. The behind-the-scenes was based around a series of short clips showing the making of the film, showing the sheer scale of the production, as well as a number of short interviews with key cast and crew talking about the film’s production. Also very welcome were the bloopers, mostly based around fluffed lines and off-camera blunders, all of which were simply hilarious. Sold outside the cinema were DVDs of the film (pictured above), featuring additional bonus features such as an audio commentary from Brown, Beath, Chadd and Reynolds.
I’m finding it extremely difficult to find anything negative to say about it, other than perhaps the first scene in the tavern — an amazing scene though it was — was a tad confusing being at the start, and also did little to really set the scene well as I expect was intended. Overall it was an incredible production, and definitely the single best (or at least most professional) piece of student television I have ever seen. What also worked in its favour was the short runtime; at just 30 minutes long, the story moves quickly from start to finish, completing all the main developments in a short space of time and leaving you wanting more from these characters.
Rating: 9/10. Amazing acting; fantastic production; exciting storyline — an all-round massive success of which everyone involved should be extremely proud.