100

Tue 19th – Sat 23rd November 2013

reviews

Nick Williams

at 10:45 on 20th Nov 2013

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A knowing ‘ooh’ of comprehension and appreciation from some members of the audience greeted the unexpected ending of this delightfully unexpected play. My advice: do not ‘expect’ anything. Call me the dumbest brick in the wall but I felt that the plot of 100 was not intended to resolve itself nicely at the end but leave you wondering. It was certainly successful. I did not hear a single group of audience members leave the theatre without discussing the exact situation the characters had been in only minutes before – ‘If you had to relive a memory for eternity what would it be?’. This is a show that with a beautiful blend of live music, powerful lighting design, and engaging shifts in style and tone, will certainly make you think. Perhaps you will not know exactly what it is you are thinking, or you might even question the nature of memory itself (if you’re deep and thespy and wear purple trousers). What I would venture to guarantee is that you will leave 100 having been entertained, excited, and, above all else, surprised for one hour of your incident-packed little life.

‘Ooh striking set!’ was my perfectly natural if hardly sophisticated response to the bed sheets, wicker and wood which greet one on entering the BT Studio. Perhaps less expected was my second thought: ‘Oh. Why is there an orange?’. The genuinely beautiful set seemed to hint at narratives left open for the characters to work themselves into: four upturned buckets, a bed, a covered structure at the rear of the stage, and, most strikingly of all, the aforementioned citrus fruit sitting sheepishly in a corner as if it hoped no one would notice. The play charts the journey of four characters who have fallen into ‘the void’ and must now choose one memory to re-experience for eternity – but time is running out. Their sinisterly smiley Guide in this space of unknowns (Lauren Jivani) continually reminds them that the watch is ticking. Where the production really excelled were the moments when all the actors came together as ensemble to recreate each other’s chosen memories. The sharp switch from their individual mannerisms and tones of voice to the scene of communality and homogeny of an African villager or the awkwardness of a first meeting of future lovers, complete with fighting infants. The script is one which lets each character inhabit a role, to use the most ridiculously theatrical of phrases, while exploring a shared fear.

The control and precision of the memory scenes meant the versatility of all the cast was clear to all but their appearance as their own roles, and the stylistically jumbled nature of the visual and vocal effect that produced, was what gave the drama power. Ketu (Sam Ereira), a villager from an indigenous tribe, moved and spoke with definite purpose, he exuded a kind of defiance to which the only flaw was a slightly wandering accent which to my untutored ear seemed to roam between Irish, Jamaican and Congolese. The couple Alex (Prithu Banerjee) and Nia (Tash Miah) were noticeably the least stylised in their physicality and vocal delivery and this was refreshing to watch, particularly alongside Amy Davy’s ‘Sophie’ whose often dreamy, detached manner was edged with bitter defiance over what she had suffered. This mesmerisingly diverse group were artfully controlled by the guidance of Jivani, attired in full black tie and morning coat complete with pocket watch – imagine Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit given a slight sedative, and about ten times his normal levels of courage, and you have something close to Jivani’s intriguing performance. If she had a fault it was that her lyrically leering style of delivery could become monotonous but, even if the vocal shaping might have been more varied, the performance was eminently watchable. That probably says a lot about my feelings for the play – it is only in comparatively minor points that I can fault it. One of the buckets still had a label on, the piano music might have teetered too far towards cliché in scenes of romance, cues were occasionally over-bitten. But aside from these relative trivialities, what are we left with? An engaging, genuinely thought-provoking production that was well acted, beautifully presented, and that masters the knack of letting uncertainty be its guiding principle; all of which should rightly recommend it to you as a rewarding hour to spend. If you go on this recommendation and do not find it so then you can always choose to forget it. Just pick another memory.

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