Monday, 15 August 2011

A review of Peter and No Comment at Shaw theatre 11 - 19th August 2011

As though religion and philosophy were not enough to explore in one play, George Hull’s Peter was a fascinating attempt to explore not only religion, philosophy, friendship, rivalry between older and younger brothers but also politics. One could argue that all this is too ambitious to get in one play. However, Hull’s carefully planned plot seems to pay off. The first half of the play was absolutely magnificent as it had the audience on a hook. We all had an itch to know who Peter was, as we heard glorified stories about him and a pure resentment from Daniel, the younger brother. The whole plot was unravelling with the younger brother’s resentment of the older and friendship with Sam Hafez as Saul. The audience do not get to see Peter until the other half of the play; this way building suspense.

Having a religious family as a central point, was a strong ground to explore various themes. We grow up believing (or not) in God, for example, because parents raise their children in which they become like them, for example Peter who is like them and Daniel, who is not. In the play each character has a role to represent or juxtapose certain themes. For example, having a character as Mr. Freeman played by David Dawkins, created a healthy counter point to religion by introducing politics and humour simultaneously. A character of Daniel, played by Neil McReynolds, was juxtaposition to religion as he declares he is not interested in it. Therefore, he is a rebellious son in the family and Peter is a ‘good’ son in the family, which is a typical family situation, a good and a bad son. Neil gave a fantastic performance of Daniel. In fact, Neil created a believable character full of confusion of sexuality, questions of religion and of friendship. I could not say that Stan Colomb as Peter was as good as Neil. Stan appeared to be more full of himself instead of convincing the audience of his character, Peter. I did not believe a word Stan as Peter said in the play. A scene where Peter was telling his dream to his younger brother Daniel was the most boring part of the play. The reason it was boring was because Stan was more interested in how he looked rather than what he said. When he made his entrance on the stage it was deeply disappointing as he was supposed to be a humble character, who does not believe in possessions, materialistic value nor looks. However, Peter wore make-up which was inappropriate for the part. Even though he was wearing biblical clothes, he was walking around the stage giving dirty looks. Giving an impression he is the most beautiful man in the world instead of performing a true character of Peter. It was simply disappointing to see this actor ruining the suspense built that was introduced to the audience earlier in the play.

However, the parents of Peter and Daniel, the mother in the play, played by Josie Bloom as Sandra and the father Michael Kenneth Steward as Simon gave an invaluable performance in the play. They were absolutely fantastic! Josie, Michael and David were probably the most outstanding actors in the play simply because they were the most believable characters.

One detail that really did not make any sense to some was the nurse/ghosts. Throughout the play we have weird looking nurse/ghosts walking around the stage. Why? They didn’t add anything to the play at all. I could possibly go with the idea that they signify the illness of Sandra but why then did they play as parts of the kitchen- holding bowls and glasses at the beginning of the play? In addition, some scenes in the play were far too short and it seemed completely unnecessary to the story as were the nurse/ghosts. I understand that some scenes or messages may have some sentimental value to the writer George Hull or director Amalia Kontesi but if a scene is too short and it does not add much to the play it really should not be there.

Certainly, the first half of the play is much better than the second. I think we all get a feeling that George Hull has so much to say. However, sometimes less is more. Certainly, everyone can find various angles of the story that applies to them directly. Some actors give their all and produce and an amazing performance, which we all should experience. Hull’s plot at times made the audience laugh and they were completely hooked. By saying so, the play has an intellectual content and fascinating diverse conversations of war, religion, friendship, love and much more. Overall, it is a fantastic play and I highly recommend seeing it.

What I do not recommend seeing is No Comment! I do not know where to start with telling you how bad it was. First of all, the stage looked a mess. If the whole action of the play is supposed to be on a roof then why is there so much mess up there? It is a roof!!! The play starts with a prime minister’s daughter desiring to commit a suicide by jumping off the roof. A police man is going to stop her doing this. As the police man is trying to find out the reasons for her being so upset, the audience gets flashbacks of Emma’s past played by Zoe Schellenberg, as she starts telling her life story. While the audience see Emma’s past all of the mess is in the way for the other actors in other scenes, isn’t that appalling? One truly revolting bit in the play is Emma flashing her knickers on the stage. If it is a cold night as they were acting it to be, why then take the clothes off?! I do not go to see someone’s knickers nor what size breast they have on the stage, I see it in London streets everyday. I did not find any of the acting that good either. Another scene of Emma’s flashback wanting to be a dancer – it would all be an excellent scene if the dancing was any good – but it was very disappointing. I do not know what the director’s of this play Amalia Kontesi and Hannah Rees were thinking. Anyhow, the effort was there but the knickers, bad acting and a messy stage are not the way to go.

Catch Peter and No Comment at the Shaw Theatre, 100-110 Euston Road, until August 19th. No Comment is at 6.30pm and Peter is at 9.00pm.

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