CUPPERS: Frank & Ferdinand (Exeter College)

Fri 11th November 2011

reviews

Joe Nicholson

at 08:39 on 12th Nov 2011

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Exeter College’s adaptation of Samuel Adamson’s ‘Frank and Ferdinand’ opened the final day of Cuppers, displaying mixed ability of those acting. The script, however, evoking frightening distopian military motifs and creating a heavy degree of suspense in the audience, was adapted fairly well to the limitations of a Cuppers performance slot.

Some of the acting in ‘Frank and Ferdinand’ was commendable: Matt Slomka’s Aloysius was very convincing, as Slomka maintained a stutter throughout the performance, definitely dominating the audience’s attention whilst onstage. Millie Simpson’s ominously-named and dressed Gendarme was also a success, Simpson achieving a professional and accomplished stage presence. The interrogations of this ‘Gendarme’ with all of the other characters, children involved in an unsettling and never explicitly explained set of events around their village, worked well, balancing moments of clever humour with more sinister points. There were some weaker performances: Sam Whiteley certainly looked the part as Sebastian Schmidts, but much of his speech and action onstage seemed wooden and unconvincing.

Nevertheless, the performance carried some flaws, many of which were down to direction and tech. Many of the lighting decisions were ill-advised, especially plunging the audience and stage into darkness for what seemed like indeterminable amounts of time. Despite this, some inventive uses of lighting were attempted, and it is a drawback of the Cuppers technical rehearsal time which means that effects are not as polished, and that what were potentially good ideas in theory simply didn’t work out in practice. Nevertheless, the use of signs to direct the performance backwards in forwards in time as the play proceeded seemed clumsy, whilst several exchanges appeared very awkward. The closing scene of the production was quite effective, to the groups’ credit, as all of the characters being interviewed by Gendarme throughout the play reconvened on stage to rehearse their replies to the questioning.

Exeter College’s Cuppers embraced the spirit of the competition. It was a large group and significant effort evidently went in to the production, and the enthusiasm of the first years at the college was clearly great. It was not the most accomplished of productions but showcased potential in some of the actors, and was overall quite an enjoyable piece to watch.

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