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ArtsEd 3 yr BA (Hons) Acting Showcase 2018 (Susan Elkin reviews)

Leicester Square Theatre,  Tuesday 27 February 2018

This showcase highlighted the talent of the 28 students graduating this year from the three year BA in Acting. Neatly structured with 14 meaty duologues, it presented reasonably long items rather than the 30 second appearances which clutter some showcases. On the other hand it would have been good to have seen these young actors in more than one role – the only way to judge versatility and the ability to get in and out of character quickly. Soon, after all, many of them will be employed in ensemble shows in which they might have to play three or four contrasting roles in a 60 minute show.

Having 15 female and 13 male actors in the group allows plenty of scope for man/woman dialogues. For example Lucy Syed and Cellan Wyn were terrific in an extract from Growth by Luke Norris. He is trying to be a sperm donor but failing to produce the necessary. She is the clinic receptionist. The double entendres fly between them with adroit comic timing and they are both very good at showing what they’re thinking before anything is said.

McQueen by James Phillips is written in a different style from most of the other chosen passages. The language is heightened and expletive free so it’s almost as it we are in Shaw or an traditional translation of Ibsen. Hana Butterfield was brittle, wan, and deeply disturbed in the way that Ophelia is. As Alexander McQueen, Eddy Westbury was calm, concerned and responsive. There was a rather appealing gravitas in his performance.

I also admired the work of both Archie Nutley and Camilia O’Grady in  Dyl by Mark Weinman – one of the many duologue choices in this showcase which was refreshingly new to me. It’s an awkward meeting between a separated couple who have a troubled history and a child. Nutley found the inner frightened little boy and O’Grady brought blossoming maturity to her character. And they were fully focused on each other.

Listening is the essence of good acting because it means you are spontaneously responsive rather than on auto-pilot. Tyler Dobbs (extract from BU21 by Stuart Slade with Anna Thygesen who is also good) is a fine example of this. His attentiveness really showed.

The funniest item in this generally pleasing showcase was Mercy Fine by Shelley Silas which explores chemistry between two female inmates. Thaddea Graham’s character is facing a tribunal so Cash Holland’s Freya tries to help her by rehearsing it. Both were very funny and played their lines for maximum effect and Holland was hilarious in her impersonation of the prison officer they know and loathe. Incidentally I predict that Thaddea Graham will be much sought after: she is both British Chinese and Irish. What a marketable combination!

There was a rather nice verse prologue at the beginning of this showcase – hints of Shakespeare, bit of rap and all about becoming an actor. Congratulations to whoever wrote and delivered it   – the same person?. You should have been credited in the programme.

PICK OF THE BUNCH: TYLER DOBBS (chosen by Bruce Wall of London Shakespeare Workshop and David Padbury of Allstone Productions)

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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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