Wrecked

Tue 8th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

James Tibbles

at 11:49 on 23rd Aug 2017

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‘Wrecked’ is a 50-minute comedy about six pirates that infuses Shakespeare, politics and irony into a newly devised piece of theatre. It is another barmy production to come out of The Nottingham New Theatre that is in a similar vain of comic self-awareness as ‘Escape for Dummies’. This time, however, the text of a script challenges the audience to interpret the political satire. Pirates are an odd vehicle for such a purpose, but somehow these students manage to pull it off.

Inspired by ‘The Tempest’, a group of 6 pirates are shipwrecked on an island under the tyrannical reign of Francoise (Emma White). Worship of a God-like parrot, Polly, adds a further dimension of oppression as certain characters submit religiously to its wisdom and commentary. The shrewdness of the satire is sometimes lost with all its farcicality, but on reflection the absurdity is an effective tool for dissecting our political times. Even now, reflecting on the underlying commentary many hours later, I can feel my own opinions and circumstances being challenged. I never thought I’d say that about a pirate show!

At first, the object of the group’s humour is made glaringly obvious by Anne’s (Felicity Chilver) internal debate about the form of an unconscious pirate. From ‘mermaid’ to ‘merman’ to ‘mer-person’, Anne settles on the last term, proclaiming ‘gender’s just a construct’ to her fellow pirate. In a generation where the concept of gender identity is constantly challenged and examined, the script does not trivialise the issue, but rather wittingly highlights how easy it is to arrive at the gender-neutral term.

Perhaps the most effective strand is a love plot between the prince-charming inspired James (Callum Walker) and dorky Billy (Andrew Houghton). These characters inspire a clever unravelling of our preconceived expectations by placing a queer narrative in the hyper masculine world of piracy. Yet, even my own intellectual remark belies its beauty: ‘Wrecked’ simply normalises homosexual love without positioning it as the butt of a joke. And that is this show’s charm. The satire is insightful but never cutting or insulting.

The most pleasing element of ‘Wrecked’ – often neglected in student fringe shows – is the happy marriage of direction and technical design. Chris Trueman clearly has a great eye for utilising stage space and Adam Frankland has a knack for simple but effective lighting and sound design, despite working within the limited conditions of a humble fringe venue. The shapes of Trueman’s blocking are visually satisfying and he clearly played to each actor’s strengths when devising their characters and comic tropes.

Every single member of the cast is also completely committed to their character and attentive to their physical characterisation. Felicity Chilver is especially amusing as a frankly odd female beard-wearing pirate. For some people, Anne’s weirdo traits might be too much, but for me Chilver’s wry sense of humour and silent intense looks to the audience held more absurd humour than the noise of a contrived one-liner ever could.

And that’s just a small glimpse into the absurdity of this show! ‘Wrecked’ is not for everyone, but it has a youthful energy and weirdness that students would enjoy. And while some lulls in the comedy can be uncomfortable, the show is most successful when cultural commentary meets astute irony.

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Emily Lawford

at 13:10 on 23rd Aug 2017

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‘Wrecked’, a new play based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, is billed somewhat confusingly as a political satire. Perhaps expecting this somewhat changed the experience for me, as I was waiting to see biting political commentary that did not appear. The play was not without merits, however, but its humour lay far more in its absurdist moments.

The play tells the story of six pirates washed up on an island which becomes a paradigm for wider society, as without laws and authority the pirates vie with each other for control over the island, using different political and philosophical ideologies to convince the other pirates to follow them. We watch, for example, the downfall of communist ideals as the pirate who claims she will give to everyone equally ends up hoarding all the fruit picked for herself. Their only god is a parrot whom they worship, but the parrot is in reality stuffed, and its voice is faked by a pirate who wishes to use the parrot’s teachings for her own gain.

The Nottingham New Theatre cast is certainly talented. The acting feels weaker at some points than others, and the timing is quite off sometimes, but in general they work well together and produce belly laughs from the audience that the script itself would not.

The play itself uses interwoven highly modified excerpts from Shakespeare’s various plays at various points in the scenes. The pirates will be addressing each other and will suddenly break out into (mis)quoting ‘Hamlet’. The play’s description informs us that the play “explores whether institutions can ever be anything but systems for oppression and whether power is always corrupting”, and these are two themes often present in Shakespeare’s plays – and this is definitely true, but the relevance of the Shakespearean language is still unclear. The scenes they have picked to quote from are not often scenes of political power struggles but seemingly random excerpts.

The “political satire” of the piece is often unclear, as the ideologies are all discussed simply using the language of fruit sharing. As political comedy, it doesn’t really work with no more similarities to real politics than the basic ideas. The play was certainly funny, but the personal interactions between the characters was what drove the humour, not overarching ideas. They work well together as a team and the hour-long experience was definitely enjoyable, but the text itself feels like it is crying out to be edited, as it doesn’t seem to know where its strengths lie.

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