CUPPERS: Broken Trinity (Lady Margaret Hall)

Tue 8th November 2011

reviews

Gavin Elias

at 14:50 on 9th Nov 2011

1agrees

2disagrees

It’s always a bit disappointing when you witness a lost theatrical opportunity. Sometimes, despite a beguiling premise, outstanding marketing, and commendable effort from all involved, a work just doesn’t click. Such is unfortunately the case with LMH’s 'Broken Trinity', an original play written by Rebecca Claire Thomas, directed by Georgia Luscombe, and concerning a rather peculiar story about some key members of the DC Justice League.

Perhaps the crux of the problem is the story and its execution. As previously mentioned, the essential idea behind it all seems to have potential – we’re tantalised by a humourous deconstruction of superhero interaction that would strip away the glamour and reveal the petty, soap-operatic lives they lead. But this strong foundation is destabilised by a rather listless and unfocused script, one that never really nails the dialogue needed for the humour (or emotional resonance) to come through. Moreover, the general plot doesn’t seem to go anywhere; not only is it rather disjointed, but it lacks the natural undulations of tension and release required for good story development, and accordingly leaves the audience constantly yearning for a culmination that never arrives. Instead, the play languishes in slow motion, stretched out painfully over numerous scenes of stagnant chitchat – discourse that presumably reaches for insightfulness and humour, but generally remains dull, inane and unnatural.

This stagnancy is not greatly helped by the direction either. Relatively static blocking means that the characters spend 90% of the time motionless, either entrenched firmly in a kitchen chair or standing upstage like stilted cardboard cutouts. Indeed, with the notable exception of a well-handled seduction scene and a blink-and-you’ll-miss it fight, dynamic movement is chronically lacking throughout the performance, and as such the piece lacks the requisite spark to excite the audience and energise the plot.

The acting also leaves something to be desired in places. Jo Henley shines perhaps the brightest as Wonder Woman, offering a sassy, manipulative take on the character – one appropriately emphasised with gyrating hips and innuendo-laden asides. And as the apparently washed-up Batman, James Stunt makes a good effort at suggesting the self-doubt and conflict within the Caped Crusader, but his lack of emotional believability and rather limited dramatic range undermine these efforts. Indeed, this appears to be a more overarching problem: the actors often shunt woodenly along from one mood to the next without passing through the connective tissue in-between, making their displays of emotion somewhat less than convincing.

There are certainly redeeming features to the show, however. The stylised atmosphere created by key technical and directorial decisions is particularly notable; blaring superhero TV tunes punctuating each scene transition introduce a much needed electroshock of goofy zest to the proceedings, as do the (tragically underused) mock punch-ups, which are hilariously executed in a comic book, freeze frame style. Small details like this do elevate the play, but they just aren’t enough to effectively stave off the landslide of problems that conspire to bury it.

Ultimately, 'Broken Trinity' does not succeed dramatically, though this statement certainly should not be taken as a slight against the enthusiasm and talent of those involved. More so, it simply bears testament to the reality that even the most innovative and creative of productions can be hobbled by procedural and communicative dysfunctions; as any self-respecting supervillain knows, the best laid of plans are apt to implode.

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Comments

Rebecca Thomas; 11th Nov 2011; 03:21:39

Say what you like about my writing, but what you've written about the direction is just ridiculous. 90% of the time in a kitchen chair? Only the opening scene is as stagnant as you claim, and that is punctuated by entrances, exits, and indeed, the "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" slow motion fight. Have you studied theatre before? Because I have, and I can tell you, I was extremely satisfied with how my director handled my "inane" writing, ecstatic even. The fact you neglect to mention the scene the rest of my audience seemed so satisfied with (Lois and Bruce) just goes to show that perhaps you'd already written off the show as something that isn't really "your cup of tea" before you even turned up.

Like I said, perhaps my creative writing is awful, maybe I should focus my time on academic writing. But this review was entirely unfair towards Ms Luscombe's directorial style. If you don't like "stagnant chitchat" punctuated by action, I'd advise you never watch a film by Quentin Tarantino. If you want action, go to your local multiplex and watch the latest studio-effort blockbuster.

By the way, was there any need to name-check me fully? Do you want to embarrass me to the point of becoming a recluse, or are you simply trying to show me the kind of cruel humour you DO like from your theatre?

Yours,

The Worst Playwright in Oxford.

J Davo; 11th Nov 2011; 22:38:31

The problem that the reviewer seems to have with the idea of characters sitting and chatting seems odd. Reviewer, have you ever heard of Waiting for Godot? I'm not suggesting a straight comparison by any means, but your review does seem to contain some all-encompassing generalisations which don't really feel justified by your words.

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