What Goes Up

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Rachel Lovibond

at 09:49 on 8th Aug 2011

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I really wanted to enjoy ‘What Goes Up’. Having watched Richard O’Brien’s previous play, ‘Restrictions May Apply’, I was expecting a production that would be outrageous, rude and very funny. Instead, ‘What Goes Up’ was an hour long exhibition of the erecting and dismantling of a tent, without a great deal to amuse in between, excepting the moment when a man spills a bowl of poo.

Jack Hackett as Bernard portrayed a rather whingey and sadly pathetic middle-aged man, who had been invited on a camping trip to Wales by Linda (Eleanor Hardy). The nature of their relationship is initially unclear. Also dragged along was Linda’s son Adam (Amyas Bale) - a slightly simple and unconvincingly obnoxious fourteen-year old. Eleanor Hardy acted well as Linda and scenes between her and Bliss (Anna Maguire) - the girl picked up by Adam from the campsite - were suitably uncomfortable, with Hardy carrying herself in a way to render the age difference between the two substantial and believable.

Unfortunately, this was the play’s only redeeming feature. Scene changes were painfully awkward and there seemed very little imagination employed in the use of lighting or sound. The script didn’t really seem suited to the theatre space, with little immediacy or connection with the audience and a significant number of moments were entirely implausible. For example, when Bliss is discovered naked in the tent by Bernard, she attempts to make him leave without much force or conviction. Whilst doing this, she appeared to be paradoxically pushing the tent door open further to expose more of her body, rather than acting in a manner which would be remotely instinctive to a naked girl approached by a pervy, middle-aged stranger in a field.

It was also difficult to judge the extent to which Bernard’s mental illness was intended to be perceived as comic or poignant, making it unclear as to whether or not we were supposed to laugh when he made frequent linguistic slips (condom/condour/contour). That, coupled with the uncomfortable vacancy of expression which seemed to develop over Hackett’s eyes as the performance progressed, left me with a sense of unease rather than anything else with regard to the choice of this comedy’s subject matter, where really nothing else remarkable occurred.

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May Anderson

at 10:04 on 8th Aug 2011

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If ‘What Goes Up’ did anything for this reviewer it has certainly re-affirmed my hatred of camping. There seems to be nothing pleasurable about leaving the comfort of civilisation and giving oneself over to the mercy of the elements and ‘What Goes Up’ did nothing to persuade me otherwise. What's more, the countryside doesn’t seem like the most congenial place for theatrical action. In fact, this seems to be something Richard O’Brien’s script has embraced. There are no shocking revelations or tense moments of passion stirred up by the characters’ proximity to the natural world. In fact, it wouldn’t be excessive to describe ‘What Goes Up’ as a play where nothing much happens. At times, like Adam, the audience might feel that they have been dragged on an expedition that seems utterly pointless. His mother Linda’s ‘male friend’, who has been brought along for the trip, doesn’t seem worthy of his attention and I was never quite convinced that his fractured ruminations on aging, memory and lust ever really merited our attention either.

‘What Goes Up’ is a play that has clearly been carefully crafted and worked upon – not many could fault the design of the play – yet several times, I found it a struggle to maintain my suspension of disbelief. In one scene in which both her young son Adam and her ‘friend’ who seems to be becoming increasingly unwell have been missing for the night, she seems more preoccupied with the thought of having a cup of real coffee than doing something to ensure the welfare of her child and companion. Perhaps this is a comment on Lynda’s parenting style but when Adam appears as a particularly dreadful caricature of the overindulged teenage boy something seems to have a gone a little awry in terms of consistent characterisation.

There are moments in the play where O’Brien’s skill as a writer of dialogue is clear. When Bliss describes the beginning of her relationship with Adam she tells how ‘he lent me some change to play Time Crisis’. Funny and wonderfully observed, the line sums up some of the sharp and humorous dialogue that the play can serve up. However, when both Adam and Bliss are two-dimensional approximations of characters and only Ellie Hardy’s portrayal of Linda seems grounded in reality it is really quite difficult to warm to the play. A bemusing play perhaps 'What Goes Up' improves upon reflection but for now I have to conclude that Richard O'Brien's play just feels bizarrely unfinished.

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Comments

Imogen Sarre; 8th Aug 2011; 14:18:11

I think what was most disappointing about this play was the sheer laziness of it. The clunky scene changes and fact 80% of the audience couldn't see half the action showed a real lack of attention to detail and very little thought put into how it would be performed. Putting on a comedy that late at night (22:45) is a great idea - but you would then expect it to be uplifting and exciting to watch, not drag so much you have to stifle yawns every 2 seconds. The characters were 2 dimensional to the extreme - apart from Bernard (Jack Hackett), who was the most convincing one of the lot, and yet was ironically meant to be the most ludicrous. And, frankly, it wasn't funny enough for the shift into the 'darker side' to be that monumental. Charge a fiver for this and you can maybe get away with putting on an average show; £9.50 is absurd.

PS: keeping the young girl unnecessarily half naked for most the show just says something quite disturbing about your rehearsal process.

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