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Bristol Old Vic Theatre School Graduating Actors Showcase 2018 (Susan Elkin reviews)

The standard was very high – as you’d expect from BOVTS. None of the 27 graduating students is less than very good so when I single out a selection to mention it really is a case of highlighting exceptional moments.

One, for example, comes when Anna Munden and Jyuddah Jaymes give us part of Chris Thompson’s Of Kith and Kin. Anna Munden’s Esme is reluctantly handing over a baby she has borne as a surrogate for Jaymes’s Daniel and his partner. She is brittle, tearful, naturalistic. Jaymes finds a dignified stillness for his character who desperately wants the child but is deeply fearful of saying the wrong thing and frightening her off again. It’s both powerful and moving.

Later in the showcase both actors show their versatility in a contrasting monologue. Munden gives us an impassioned account of a girl at her viva voce exam (Alexandra by Jon Welch)  and Jaymes transforms himself into a flamboyant Californian (Topdog/Underdog by Suzi Lori Parks).

Another one to watch is James Schofield who brings oodles of personality to an extract from Honest by DC Moore in which he describes confronting a group of Clapham-based young banker types and it’s very funny.  He’s also noteworthy as a  young primary school teaching assistant desperate to develop further his relationship with Kate Reid’s Lara who’s a teacher five years older and rather more worldly. This comes from School Play by Alex MacKeith.

Charlotte Wyatt catches the eye too. She has one of those neutral faces which can do a great deal – and she knows how to use it. In Rachel Cusk’s Medea, A New Version she brings tears, anger, anguish and truth, all well controlled. She does impressive things with her voice too which is pitched much lower here than for her duologue with Charlie Suff in in Romona Tells Jim by Sophie Wu. They fancy each other but there’s a lot of nicely caught awkwardness and both actors are focused listeners making the best of pauses.

This was a long and complex showcase – a bit of a rollercoaster with 41 separate scenes in 90 minutes. Each actor took part in a duologue as well as having a short (very short in some cases) solo spot so it was pretty even handed. I liked the concept of including three ensemble numbers too. The movement piece at the beginning was slickly percussive and the choral singing of Henry Purcell’s A Round was very fine at the half way point. The finale number (from Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown) highlighted dancing and singing skills as many individuals sang solo lines. Jyuddah Jaymes continued to shine for example.

All in all this was an enjoyable showcase featuring 27 pretty talented individuals. The bittiness of it was more than compensated for by performance quality.

PICK OF THE BUNCH: Tony of David Padbury Associates chooses ANNA MUNDEN

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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