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Rhetoric (Susan Elkin reviews)

Devised and performed by Drama Studio London third year graduating students
performance date: 28 Mar 2019
venue: Drama Studio London, Grange Court, Ealing

This piece, devised and performed by eleven Drama Studio London third year graduating students, is part of a season of three different devised shows running in its on site theatre this week. Partly a way of showcasing student work at all levels, Rhetoric is angry, funny, nicely observed and includes some interesting acting.

It works, rather cleverly, as a triptych, The first and middle scenes seem to be unrelated until we reach the very end when all becomes clear. Emmet Tams, who also directs, scripted the piece and he’s done a good job. Mary has dementia and is in a care home where she listens to the radio incessantly. An incident means that she now has to transfer to somewhere able to “better provide for her needs”. So the theme is displacement. The longer central scene gives us a radio show, hosted streamed visually on Amazon for the first time – with a very heated, Brexit-related sofa discussion about refugees.

There’s an impressive performance from Devarnie Lothian as Mary’s gentle, caring, knowledgeable social worker. Like Elizabeth Bell’s role as nurse with who he has some very convincing naturalist it dialogue, his character is one of the few who isn’t a stereotype. Lothian’s acting is invisible – a very pleasing performance. And I loved his very last line: “Come on, Mary. Let’s take back control.”

James Hoyle is very strong as the celebrity radio show host too. The mannerisms, vanity and professionalism to hide vulnerability is accurately observed. I liked Oliver Lintott as the voice of reason (from Russia – just to confound expectations too )in the radio studio against the right wing bigotry of two of the others, Jaimie Bremner is chilling as the Farage-like condemnatory George and Eleanor Shannon makes a nice job of the extreme tabloid columnist in her pearls and chignon.

It’s an enjoyably intelligent 75 minutes of theatre and I hope we see more of these students as they begin to work professionally in the next few months.

First published by Sardines:

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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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