Isobel

Tue 23rd – Sat 27th October 2012

reviews

Marta Codello

at 01:27 on 24th Oct 2012

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‘Isobel’ is a pleasant yet unsettling experience. Excited at the idea of new writing satirizing the very place where it is played I made my way into the cosy studio - but the show was not at all what I expected. A satirical story about morality and personal responsibility ‘Isobel’ is definitely darker and more elaborate that its description betrays. What had previously sounded like another story about lost youths at Oxford, in fact, reveals itself to be much more complex.

The writing (Robert Holtom) is incredibly articulate and intense, if at times a bit too wordy, with plot clues disseminated throughout and a very convincing framing within Agatha Christie references.

Remarks shared in passing at the very beginning of the play between Jack (Frederick Bowerman) and Cordelia (Amber Husain) on the aristocracy in Christie’s novels being ‘so murderous’ or, alternatively, ‘so very bored’ offer, in retrospect a very good interpretative key to the whole piece. The doubt still remains, though, as to just how far jealousy and need for thrill are going to take the characters.

Annoyed at their empty-headed and apparently defenceless ‘friend’ Isobel (Finola Austin), Cordelia and Jack cunningly orchestrate her murder, leaving the audience to decide where the border between righteousness and amorality lays. In a figurative hunt (as described by Jack) the scheming friends constantly shift their roles between hunter/hound, victim and bait, manipulating each other to the very end.

As for the acting, Finola Austin is great fun as Isobel and Frederick Bowerman is incredibly convincing as the decadent, emotionless Jack; Amber Austin’s Cordelia is at times less strong.

The set design and lighting are very simple and well suited to the performance space, evocative in themselves of the intimacy of a student room, where most of the action takes place.

Overall, a play with great promise which may need a bit more work to make it tighter and more effective - but that definitely has something to say, and not just to an Oxford audience.

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