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Noises OFF Tuesday 26th March


Today’s Contents 2 Reviews: Jerusalem A Byron Age

Two Sentences

Solid as a block of wood

4 Reviews: The Memory of Water Drowning in nostalgia

"Grief, adoption and - Lord help us - homeopathy"

6 Reviews: Pornography

Letting the writer speak "No pornography in Pornography..."

Mundane Mixes with the Extraordinary

9 Reviews: Stacy

Reflecting on Childhood Burn without the smoke

10 What is the Purpose of Theatre? 11 What a Waste 12 False Idols 13 Theatre, meet the critics 14 Originality - Fact or Fiction?

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Reviews: Jerusalem A Byron Age esmetres

I enjoyed the opening scene of Jerusalem and the enthusiasm that was initially shown by the cast. However, this dulled later on and I felt that as a team they became less committed to their characters, which then lowered my own level of involvement. It may be because it was a late show after a long day, but I didn't feel that the themes of isolation, abandonment and status in a group were portrayed very well. Granted, NSDF is a festival for the younger generation by the younger generation - but the idea of an 19 year old being able to truly understand and portray the desperation of a 40-something man who is completely alone just doesn't work. Initially, with no prior knowledge of the play, I thought that the character of 'Rooster' Byron was a 20 year old who is friends with the local youths. I was wrong. Very wrong. On the other hand, hats off to the group (and NSDF) for taking a leap and choosing a play that is more of a risk but actually worth the while. They got me to 'Noises Off' and made me think; that's a really good thing. Good for them, good for NSDF, good for my brain.

Two Sentences: 2.5 Hours too Long Rosie Curtis

Jerusalem is mostly well-performed and nice to look at but is an unnecessary 2.5 hours long. That’s all I am going to write about this production because if you saw Jerusalem you’ve probably had enough of it.

Solid as a block of wood,lacking in the magic of woodland. Phil King

Theatre that you can smell often immediately grips an audience, and the sodden turf on the ground of the Woolfe smelled right. Complete with dirty ruined caravan atop the grass and a cornucopia of evidence of previous partying, it looked right too. This surface work wasn't matched by a danger underneath though. The cast work hard to find a naturalistic playing of the modern tale of a human being rooted in the traditions of the English Green Man, complete with his own wood and an appetite for sexuality and altered states of consciousness. There is a healthy amount of back shown to the audience as they focus on making sure actors talk to, and crucially listen to, actors. The size of the characters are bewilderingly large though, and Simon Peal as 'Rooster' Byron has a monumental task in representing a man hewn from oak. We certainly believe he has power, as his accompanying groundlings work hard to look up to him, but we certainly don't believe he is all-powerful. This makes his fall from grace and his summoning of spirits without and within him less convincing.

So what was it that drew this admirable company to this difficult challenge of characterisation? Having not seen the Rylance version I'm not on the list of those who have a direct comparison but choosing to restage a piece so recently at The Royal Court and in the West End that list is long and their memory of his performance is strong. Mojo and to a lesser extent The Night Heron have earned Butterworth notoriety with his rapid-fire stichomythia interpolated with whimsical dreamlike monologues but does this clear appeal warrant this staging of his most recent work? Is it because on the surface this play is easy? Like Mojo these are character types, not deeply three-dimensional beings but still work needs to be done to truly find how to epitomise them. It may be no accident that the most convincing of the actors, Jessica Courtney, changed the gender of her character, the Professor, and found a whimsical, intelligent and culturally-rooted soul with a sense of humour. Her gentle pottering and skyward gazes of contemplation worked as a great comic foil. Ultimately though, despite best efforts like this, we remain unconvinced of the magic of English folklore, which we need to believe seeps out from underneath the browning lawn. Latest news & reviews at


Reviews: The Memory of Water Drowning in nostalgia Hannah Greenstreet

"This has nothing to do with my parents!" shouts one of the three sisters preparing for their mother's funeral in The Memory of Water. Shelagh Stevenson's play reveals that, in fact, everything has to do with one's parents. The intergenerational repetition is merciless. Each of the sisters has ended up in a relationship with a man as useless as her father and each of them feels herself slowly turning into her mother. The memory remains, however hard they try to forget through displacement activities and questionable humour. Although New Theatre's production sometimes achieved moments of black comic brilliance hypochondriac and herbal remedy enthusiast Teresa prescribing Rescue Remedy for Mary's existential crisis - the humour often fell flat, particularly in the first half. This was a question of pace, which sometimes felt painfully slow. Cues needed to be picked up faster to combat the tendency for the nostalgia to morph into whimsy. Stevenson's script makes it all too easy for the performers to end up playing reductive caricatures for the sake of laughs. The three sisters divide into three stereotypes: the sarcastic one, the neurotic one, and the common one: Mary, Teresa and Catherine. The comedy did pick up, however, with the entry of Frank, Teresa's 'funny' husband. Ben Williamson is clearly a talented comedian, but at times his enormously exaggerated facial expressions detracted from the rest of the piece. His comic style also appeared to be modelled on the Chuckle Brothers, which he highlighted by some 'to me, to you' parley with Mike, Mary's sort of boyfriend, over Teresa's mother's coffin.

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Failed jokes aside, the production succeeded in achieving moments of intricate emotion, capturing the sisters' different responses to their mother's death and to earlier, deeper grief. Rosanna Stoker as Mary grew in emotional magnitude with her part. The stage manager should also be commended for taking on the part of Teresa at short notice, although, understandably, the character was not as developed as it could have been. The scenes between Mary and the ghost of her mother sometimes lacked direction. One of the reasons for this was that the bed took up so much of the stage that it inhibited movement, although the set helped to capture a sense of claustrophobia. In the ghost scenes Stevenson's play is an interesting rewrite of Most Western Theatre, putting the ghost of the absent mother, usually excluded, at the heart of the piece. Unfortunately, due to underwhelming jokes and its slow pace, the New Theatre's production is more of literary than human interest.

Reviews: The Memory of Water "Grief, adoption and - Lord help us - homeopathy" Dan Hutton

A woman lays on an old, dishevelled bed inside a small bedroom cluttered with the detritus of time. Wallpaper peels away from the skirting and draws fall off their rails and spill out onto the floor. This is our world for the next two and a half hours in a play that attempts to tackle questions of grief, adoption and - Lord help us - homeopathy, but falls short on all counts in a production that fails to engage on practically every level. Admittedly, The Memory of Water was never going to be my cup of tea. Shelagh Stephenson's naturalistic play about bereavement set in one room feels more like a mild form of torture than a night at the theatre. In the New Theatre's production directed by Nicholas Hughes, however, whatever little life that had been present in the play is snuffed out and replaced with a tone akin to French farce and seems like little more than a vehicle for lead actor Rosanna Stoker. It's odd that the performances are so underwhelming in a production which by its very nature is so dependent on its actors. Aside from the two central characters of Mike and Mary, the characters are painted with wide brushstrokes and lack any humanity. Both Amy Brough-Aikin and Ben Williamson in the roles of Catherine and Frank seem to both be performing in a different play (namely the aforementioned French farce) and there looms a question mark over the fact that Catherine has a northern accent even though her two sisters speak in RP. At yesterday's performance, the role of Teresa was played (after twenty-four hours rehearsal) by stage manager Chloe Rushby with script in hand, and staggeringly she seemed to be more at home in the play than both Williamson and Brough-Aikin. As Mike, Ajay Stevenson lends an air of calm to proceedings, treading the line between dry humour and raw emotion and smartly playing the foil to Stoker's sarcastic, emotionally closed Mary.

Without a doubt, Stoker steals the show and is the only one of the cast to believably play a middleaged woman who has just lost her mother. The fact that a student drama society has chosen to produce a play about the grief of three middleaged women is baffling to say the least. Though it's perfectly acceptable to play out of age-group and mount plays which are close to the maker's heart if that's your thing, why go for a show which has practically nothing to say to our peer group? The Memory of Water also raises questions about taste within the context of the National Student Drama Festival. Ordinarily, we as audiences choose what we're going to pay money to see based on shows we've enjoyed in the past, carving out what we know to be our niche so that we waste neither time nor money. Here, however, where everyone sees everything, this choice is stripped away from us, so that we sit through productions that may be the complete opposite of our preferred style or form. Is it fair, then, to be critical about something which we were never going to enjoy no matter how accomplished or complete? With The Memory of Water, however, these questions of intention, play choice and taste seem largely redundant, or rather secondary given that this is a dull, lazy production which rarely manages control over its tone. It flits between seventies sitcom and gritty BBC Four drama, sometimes playing for laughs and sometimes going for out-and-out melodrama. Hughes's production, therefore, fails on multiple levels, having not managed to take control of the text, perform it coherently or draw out the central issues present. Worse than this, however, it struggles to justify itself, ending up making about the same amount of sense as homeopathy.

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Reviews: Pornography Letting the writer speak Phil King

Of the might and mastery of Simon Stephens many are not in doubt, and slick productions like this of Pornography do his name no harm. The rock and roll daddy of angry theatre-makers in the UK has, thanks to his recent stranglehold of the Royal Court Young Writers Programme, assured an emerging generation of copy cats. We will hear Stephens long after he has faded away. His intercut dialogue, reminiscent at times of the more assured David Greig, is gently dealt with by Warwick University. When they ease off and let the witty, laconic and acerbic dialogue do its job the play works. Angus Imrie, as the schoolboy, simply tells Stephens' story and his performance is a delight as a result. His portrayal of juvenile power and ignorance of rules provide controlled pace. At times lines are rushed, pushed or hushed but on the whole this is a rooted and carefully delivered production. Allowing Stephens to speak, rather than encouraging the actors to claim the glory for themselves is the cleverest of George Want's directing decisions. The post-coital scene was most indulgent in this regard with far too many lingering looks. This didn't convincingly tell of a brother and sister, but even here the story itself was clearly carried. This production will surely only further encourage students wishing to submit Pornography to this festival for another few years to come.

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Reviews: Pornography "No pornography in Pornography..." Hannah Greenstreet

I felt confused and violated. But this may have been the audience response intended by Warwick University's production of Simon Stephens' play, Pornography. The audience was disorientated by being confronted by snippets of scenes from various, intertwined stories. The link between them was gradually revealed to be some kind of involvement with the 7/7 bombings, from a bomber, to a commuter, to just another Londoner. The violence that bubbles beneath the surface of the individual stories at once anticipates the massive slaughter, "mak[ing] these words seem real", but also falls bathetically short of it. The director, George Want, layered the scenes over each other, which highlighted the eerie correspondences between stories and provided the few moments of human contact in the bleak world of the play.

“The staging imparted a disturbing sense of emotional distance to even the most intimate scenes� It worked well in the round; the cast were ranged round the stage in the first row of the audience oppressively observing the action. The staging imparted a disturbing sense of emotional distance to even the most intimate scenes and this distance

was also highlighted by effective use of technology, such as in the Skype call across the stage. This made the human moments achieved in this inhuman, unreal world more special. Angus Imrie was terrifying as a teenager obsessed with his teacher but also oddly sympathetic. Although Maria Hildebrand as the Old Woman did not always succeed in inhabiting the age of her character, she pitched her final scene perfectly, achieving an ending that was at once human, bathetic and genuinely tragic. Want's production could have done more to capture the 'shock value' of Stephens' play. The numerous signs outside the Stephen Joseph Theatre, warning of 'pornographic images', 'language which may offend' and 'smoking on stage' raised expectations that were then disappointed. There was no pornography in Pornography. Instead, we had a sweet old woman informing us about how she watches pornography with her husband and we watched impassive as a couple revealed that their relationship was incestuous. However, maybe this is the point of Stephens' play: things that should appal have lost their power to shock. The projection of news footage, as well as videos of the stage action, on screens heightened the sense of voyeurism. It suggested that the 7/7 bombings were media porn, which gave the concluding list of eulogies a disturbing and tragic twist.

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Reviews: Pornography

Mundane Mixes with the Extraordinary George Meredith

As civilisations collapses around us there is no privacy. World tragedy is defined by technology, news reports and Twitter feeds - the impersonal and the unsympathetic. It is unseemly, this perverse voyeuristic pleasure of detached televisual witnessing. We're intruding. With its title being what it is, Warwick University's decision to have a bed as the focal point of the Pornography set is striking, carrying with it associations of the voyeuristic invasion of intimacy characteristic of internet porn. Across it the oddities and personal depravities of the characters are played out; the racism and inappropriate schoolboy lusting of Jason (played by the infectiously watchable Angus Imrie) or the incest of two siblings, even the revenge of an office worker. The mundane mixes with the extraordinary, but all are exposed as the scenes of violence and sex descend and trample across the bed. The bed in question is set with electrical cables protruding and snaking across the floor. Above, loose wires dangle over the action. In part it's

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an eerie post-blast wasteland, but also creates the impression of being plugged in and hooked up to a merciless stream of popular culture, the ethereal screens with projections of Chris Martin, Tony Blair their images crackling. The media coverage combines with disturbing live handheld camera techniques that focus on the particularly violent emotional action and feeds images to the screens. The happyslapping atmosphere becomes a reflection of a breakdown of privacy, and the exploitation of things that should be confined to the bedroom. The climax of the piece is the 7/7 bombing and it's an uncomfortable finale. With the voyeurism so consistently pressed, we're reminded of our pornographic obsession with media images; news as entertainment. Our theatrical engagement with the play feels like a similar exploitation, and as the details of those killed in the blast are read aloud, we keenly feel our intrusion. We've imposed ourselves on their lives and its inappropriate, like post-porn shame.

Reviews: Stacy Reflecting on Childhood Will Trilbee Carlisle

Stacy's biggest strength is its pure simplicity. It's deceptively simply in its content, format and its structure, and that's the perfect combination for the audience to let down their guard in order to be affected by the dark secrets hidden within the dialogue. Stacy is a one man show as a character named Rob tells the audience about his sorta-girlfriend Stacy while a slideshow shows images on the wall behind him. With only a chair and a bottle of water on stage, the actor playing Rob (Joe Mellor) has the odds stacked against him in order to keep the audience engaged for 80 minutes, but his unassuming nature and relatable delivery and stories allow us to become invested in what he's telling us, which makes it all the more painful to see the situation Rob gets into spiral out of control and become more sinister, even though that's not his intent. Jack Thorne's script does have some structural problems as many plot threads are left dangling without any sort of resolution (I overheard many

people agreeing with me as I left the theatre so I know I wasn't the only one) and some segments come to an abrupt end as Rob then moves onto another story despite leaving the previous one unfinished. This cripples an otherwise interesting flow, meaning that it's easy to lose interest in the stories for a short amount of time as there isn't a lot on stage to engage with. While the slideshow is entertaining for the first 20 minutes, it's usage decreases during the performance meaning that Stacy loses one of its most interesting elements as the show goes on. But in the end Stacy is still a decent performance that shouldn't work as well as it does, but it's very easy to be drawn in because of the brilliant delivery by a very strong lead performer. Stacy just feels genuine and human in every detail, from the pictures that look like they come from right out of a Facebook Album, to reflecting on dark moments from your childhood which may have appeared innocent at the time.

Burn without the smoke Phil King

Joe Mellor takes us through the minutiae of Rob's inexorable path into, and the aftermath of, committing rape. It is the scripted detail and Mellor's matter-of-fact delivery that becomes harrowing, and the carefully plotted storyline leads us through the basics: flirty work life; fraught home relationships with an absent mother and sexual confusion including the complication of letting your best/girl friend masturbate in front of you. As it sounds, this could very easily become monotonous drivel, but Mellor makes it compelling and we believe him and feel Rob's atrocity. The cutesy slides used as backdrop to Mellor's identikit chair and supermarket water bottle coupled with his confessional tone leads us to believe we're in gentle territory. We quickly side

with the protagonist, which makes the later horror all the more acute. The graphic sexual detail after the first few minutes comes as a surprise, but even then this feels like a man working through generic sexual issues. There's just enough extra detail to make a story that is so full intriguing enough to follow its progress before the account of rape demands your attention. Why are the first two slides of his father blank? What was the text he sent to his flirtatiousyet-engaged-to-be-married work colleague? It is a risky piece, not a surprise from a writer on Skins, Shameless and the This is England television series, and it is wonderful to see Laura Woodward risk directing the show in a way that isn't flashy but doesn't back off the burn. Latest news & reviews at


What is the Purpose of Theatre? Who is it For? Jake Orr

Should theatre be a place of learning, entertainment or just for an artist's sake? What is the purpose of theatre? Yes, it's a loaded question, and yes, perhaps it should remain rhetorical. In an earlier article for Noises Off, Dan Hutton suggested that student theatre should be a place to challenge and experiment without the restrictions and pressures of the industry. Hutton used director Marianne Elliot's brilliant quote that theatre should not be "run-of-the-mill". This should be seen as a provocation to student directors. Buck up and be "something... remotely different".


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This provocation, however, has clearly been waylaid in reaching the ears of The Twelve Dancing Princesses co-director Cassey Elizabeth North. During the discussion of her show yesterday she deflected the questions of potential feminist interpretations by declaring "theatre doesn't always have to be about having something to say". The reaction from those present said it all. Later, North explained the process of making the piece stating "if something didn't work, we made it work".

What a Waste Paul Hughes

“If you’re making work without the audience in mind then what’s the point? ” If, as I have understood it, North's idea of theatremaking is to direct with force, bending the work until it yields to her and co-director Joshua Patel, then we really are in a sorry state of affairs. Theatre has to have a purpose, it can not just be for theatre's sake, otherwise we'll be creating self-indulgent, ignorant and dull work time after time. Theatre, whether we intended it or not, will always have something to say because the maker has chosen to use the medium to showcase their work. Theatre by definition is for an audience, the purpose is to co-exist in a space shared between maker and audience. There has to be intention that will lead to purpose. If you're making theatre that doesn't work, as North suggested, then it simply does not work, and you shouldn't attempt to force it into a place it does not belong. This brings up the question of who you are making the piece for, yourself or the audience? If it doesn't work, then surely you have a responsibility to your audience to accept that it is not working. Not to "make it work" against all odds. If you're making work without the audience in mind then what's the point? Theatre-makers, directors or actors, have a responsibility to their audience. Everything, every-little-thing matters. So you might think that your theatre is made with nothing to say, and you might make your piece work regardless of whether it actually succeeds, but then we, as your audience, will respond silently. Why? Because you won't have an audience to perform to because you forgot to make theatre for the audience in the first place. Theatre can not exist without an audience. (Do I really need to quote Peter Brook?)

I rode a wave of buzzing excitement last night on entering the Spa Grand Hall for Kate Tempest’s Wasted. Having drooled over reports of her Brand New Ancients at BAC earlier in the year, I considered myself to lucky to have the chance to see this earlier show. Unfortunately, the main focus of my interest was missing – Tempest doesn’t perform in this show, instead writing the mixed dialogue and spoken-word script of three of London’s twenty-somethings (each performer competent in performing the poetry, though none with Tempest’s intensity or passion). Though the scenes in which the performers speak straight out to the audience have power (aided by massive projections of their lovely massive faces), the rest of the performance lacks much interest. Tempest’s thrilling poetry is countered by her stodgy and endless dialogue. The trio of cartoonishly hip performers made me think of the brilliantly painful films you’re shown in school warning you about taking nasty drugs (including a “Oh, but I might as well take these nasty drugs” speech and the consequent shit rave scene). Though this does sound like a fantastic project for Forced Entertainment, the awkward and unnecessary choreography here was played in unironic earnest. Though you can still see flashes of brilliance, Tempest was clearly uncomfortable writing for theatre here, and there was nothing particularly interesting in the direction or performances (though the projected videos and the massive TV made of speakers that displayed them were awesome fun). Wasted doesn’t deliver any of the immense potential of this spoken-word/ theatre blend, but as Brand New Ancients suggests, Tempest might do something brilliant with it in the future. Latest news & reviews at


False Idols

Christopher Adams As students, it's very tempting to fling around Names because we think they're impressive, or right, or make us sound as we know what we're talking about. Emily Dixon is correct to prod Berkoff's statuette on his pedestal and to question his place in our theatrical pantheon. Of course, it's good to study what others have done - that why we're here, no? To hear from those who did and are doing. But it's wrong to venerate practitioners as if they are theatrical idols to worship and at whose altars productions must sacrifice their art to please their particular god.

“Just because we’re students doesn’t mean we have to define our work by which camp we’re most inspired by or want to be associated with” Of the plays so far, Tatty Tales has suffered most from these labels that do disservice to their own name and the Name by which they were apparently inspired. L'ecole Jacques Lecoq has certainly inspired many theatre creators who are synonymous with a jaunty style of physical theatre that looks good but lacks substance. The admittedly impressive work that Tatty Tales presented seems to fit into this category: slick but shallow, where the issues they introduced were instantly fobbed off, and the grotesque was used simply as a starting point rather than a mode in which to play, to play with, and play with the audience.

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Just because Stanislavski thought realism was good doesn't mean that audiences should sit behind a wall, deprived of action or sound. Just because Lecoq used the body as a method of expression doesn't mean that every production in which physicality is more than blocking is based on the Book of Lecoq. Just because we're students doesn't mean we have to define our work by which camp we're most inspired by or want to be associated with. I was at Lecoq last year and Tatty Tales is not what Lecoq "means." And why should it be? I'm glad his work has crossed borders and has budged The Word in our very wordy British theatre, but if that's what "Lecoq-esque" means here, something's been lost in translation. We should have the confidence to dare to do our own work, under our own name, without hiding behind Lecoq or anybody else. They did that: we're doing this. There's no other time when there's such freedom to fail. That sounds scary, but it's not. If you want to know about Lecoq, often you'll slave away for a week to create a devised piece only for it to be cut off after five seconds with an "Ok, merci." Failure is inspirational, because you learn something from it. Worshipping false idols because you think it will fast-track your work from "student" to "stellar" misses the point. We should learn from our mistakes, and from our peers. And from what we read about and are taught about, of course, but they're not more "right" than we are. They're just further down the line. One day, we will be the ones leading workshops at this festival, and we have to have something new to say. Say it loud and proud. And under your own banner. The gods are dead. Long live the gods.

Theatre, meet the critics Dan Hutton

We've been told enough times already that "NSDF is a unique opportunity" for everyone involved, whether an actor, director, producer, writer, designer, technician or tea lady, to hone their skills, meet new people and discover more about their discipline. There's another unique opportunity, however, which we can easily overlook, and that is to create a genuine conversation between the people who make theatre and the people who write about it. As Jake Orr described on these very pages earlier in the week, Dialogue is a project which has, over the course of about a year, tried to bring artists and writers together in a room to talk about their practice. Questions of ethics surrounding criticism, the usefulness of reviews and star ratings have all been considered in the discussions I've attended, with artists asking critics why they write and critics asking artists why they make theatre. An opportunity like this at NSDF feels foolish to miss. The Noises Off office is exactly seven seconds away from the bar (I have just timed it) and there really ought to be more traffic between the two rooms. There are few other theatrical settings where you can write a review, file it and go and chat to the makers straight after, which may or may not make you want to change what

you've said. Or where, as a theatre-maker, you can chat to a critic as they write about you. This set-up also allows us to ask questions about the ethics of theatre-writing. Is it okay, for example, to go to the bar and chat to the company before writing the review? Or to bump into a company member one night and review their show later in the week? How does this affect the way we write about The Thing in question? Does this satisfy the readers' "need" for "objectivity"? My feeling is that these questions become less problematic in a context like this, which encourages experimentation with form and asks us to question the assumptions we already hold. We are all, for the most part, seeing the same shows, and so as writers may not have the same amount of responsibility to a readership as we ordinarily would in the "real world". The responsibility might have shifted somewhat to focus more on the artists and give them more credit, so that - if anything - it could be deemed the responsible thing to do to talk to a company before writing about their show. Or not. But it's worth a try. Either way, I'll see you in the bar. Latest news & reviews at


Originality - Fact or Fiction? Emily Zinkin

Theatre piece, novel, film; it doesn't matter what, but almost as soon as a new creative work is revealed to the public you can guarantee there will be some critic bemoaning its lack of originality. You might think that at NSDF, a festival featuring what is supposed to be some of the best, freshest and most original student theatre in the country, that we would have escaped, but such accusations follow us even here - just look

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back at the article '4.48 Pornography' earlier this week. But is originality possible? Christopher Brooker came up with the concept of the seven basic plots and claimed it is impossible to deviate from them. No wonder Oedipus Rex and Romeo and Juliet are both grouped under the same genre despite being written centuries apart in entirely different societies - they both follow the tragic plotline perfectly.

Another idea along these lines is that of archetypes; the break-down of characters and concepts into their core identities. This too is meant to go back to the very dawn of storytelling, and it is certainly startling when one examines how many of the same archetypes have been found in different cultures who had had no previous contact with each other. Yet if

“In the Elizabethan period, it was common and even expected for playwrights to copy ideas off previous writers” there are only seven plots, and all characters can fit into an archetype, then surely it is too demanding for critics to demand their perception of originality from a new piece of work. Which brings us on to the next question: should we expect originality? Culturally the expectation of original ideas from creative works is actually a new one that rose to the foreground with copyright legislation. In the Elizabethan period, it was common and even expected for playwrights to copy ideas off previous writers and re-imagine them for their theatre audiences. Some of Shakespeare's greatest successes that we still applaud to this day are easily traceable to the sources he took them from. Othello's plot, for example, is a near exact replica of the Italian writer Cinthio's A Moorish Captain, published in 1565. In fact plot replicas can be traced even further back than this, with Hamlet bearing a striking resemblance to Aeschylus' Oresteia. But despite the fact that this is common knowledge, we do not hold Shakespeare up to the same demands of 'originality' as we do modern writers; his original and clever prose and verse are enough to assuage us.

works are often very well received. For example, the film adaptations of The Great Gatsby and The Hobbit were the most anticipated cinema releases this winter. This crossover of media is more obvious and explicit than other - arguably much more original - works, yet receives the most applause. Yet for some reason we are always much more critical of theatre adaptations or of theatre in general; some may recall the illfated Lord of the Rings musical a few years ago. Is this really because theatre has run the gamut of originality and has nothing left to offer, or are there other explanations? Maybe it is simply that we have lost all faith in Hollywood and have had to lower our standards to cope, or are simply too demanding for theatre productions and playwrights to cope.

“Perhaps we should put more emphasis on how original the creator’s take on the setting or the plot twists are” Is the answer, therefore, to simply lower our standards of what counts as originality, or to rethink it? Well, no matter how liberal our own views are, libel and copyright infringement will still be very real, very legal issues, and so a more Elizabethan approach may be necessary. Instead of complaining over the typical boy-meets-girl plotline - or in student theatre's case people-gettogether-to-be-nihilistic plotline - perhaps we should put more emphasis on how original the creator's take on the setting or the plot twists are. After all, as Barbara Grizzuti Harrison once said; "There are no original ideas. Only original people."

The waters are muddied even further when we consider how new interpretations of famous Latest news & reviews at


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Noises Off Tuesday 26th March  

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