Review Written by Maurice Smith, The Loft, Leamington Spa – Jul 06
When I decided to come and see BCP’s production of Sex, Drugs and Rick and Noel, I was not sure which version I would see. There is a play version and a musical version. Or it would be more correct to say a play with music. BCP chose the play version, and I found the music used throughout the play to be charming and appropriate.
The play tells the story of two forty odd year olds, attempting to complete a University Degree Course somewhat late in life. Shades of “Educating Rita”.
I loved the slow fade of lights and music at the opening, which promised a professional and exciting evening. I was not disappointed.
Rick, played by Richard Oliver, opens the play. He is the narrator and main actor and what a talent this young man has. His story telling held the audience spellbound, helping us to forget the heat in The Mill that night. He has a wonderful sense of comedy, and the moments of pathos were never overplayed. Perhaps the Director should have given him a little less movement during his dialogues with the audience, as stillness has great power sometimes.
I have no less praise for Marc Griffiths, playing Noel. This character is a feckless and spoiled womaniser. His bad influence on Rick leads to some wonderfully comic moments. Marc plays Noel with such laid back casual charm, that we could not help but warm to this rogue. These two characters bounced off each other with such ease. I have seen Marc play many varied roles, and his success with this character, showed me what a fine actor he is.
Another fine performance came from Nicola O’Boyle playing the History tutor. Her portrayal of Maxine was excellent. Her dignity and maturity was a great contrast to the two boys’ characters and one was never in any doubt that she was in charge. Her developing relationship with Rick was handled without sentimentality and achieved a warm glow in the audience.
Lee Dwyer playing Ranjit, the Indian restaurant owner was also very good. He kept his dignity and calm, with great style, even though he was owed several thousand pounds by Noel. It is not easy to portray other races and Lee achieved this very convincingly. His shock at getting his money back with interest, was a delight.
A special word must be said here for Linda Shaw who played the duel roles of Rachel and Helen, the twins. Due to illness Linda stepped into these parts at short notice, I understand two days. One would never have known that she had not rehearsed for weeks. Her performance was faultless and convincing, bearing in mind that she was playing two characters. Linda always turns in a fine performance and this was no exception.
As Director, Linda also shines. The piece was never slow, and held the audience, despite the heat, throughout the whole evening. She achieved a tight and compact production.
There was a wonderful balance between the comedy and dramatic moments, which gave us an entertaining and satisfactory evening.
I loved the lighting and most of the basic sets. When the lights first came up it all looked interesting and convincing. I would however question the need for the cupboard set and the student bar set.
With such talented actors, all the effects needed in those scenes could have been achieved by lighting alone. It also saves the difficulty of getting these large pieces on and off.
A great evening. Well done to all concerned.
Review Written by Simon Coates, Abingdon Touring Theatre Company 22 Jul 06
I was very impressed with the cast, and they were all able to convince me that they were their characters (my usual bugbear with amateur shows). Casting is the most important part of directing, as getting the right cast in place can make the difference between a great success and abject failure.
I think the actors were presented with slightly different challenges – Richard and Marc had bigger roles and more lines to learn, but their characters had back stories to help them build up their characters; Nicola, Linda and Lee didn’t have this luxury, so more or less had to build their characters from scratch. However they tackled the challenges they all succeeded and, unusually (particularly in small amateur groups) and happily, there was no weak link in the cast.
I think that Richard and Linda deserve special praise. From the moment that Richard stepped on stage he was able to make the audience care about him, and maintained that throughout. He and Marc managed to keep their accents very well indeed (though now I’ll probably be told they weren’t putting anything on!) I was particularly impressed that Richard’s accent changed as he got the allergy, and I wish I could sneeze like that in real life, let alone on stage! Linda obviously had to step into the cast at the last moment in unfortunate circumstances, but you’d never have known that she hadn’t been in it throughout.
I thought the soundtrack was very appropriate throughout, and the music box’s music was indeed very haunting – I’d actually have liked to have heard more of it if it were possible.
Now a number of (very minor) criticisms and comments:
- I have no idea how old he actually is, but Richard looked younger than 43. This could have been a casting difficulty and necessary due to lack of men, and had no affect on the performance.
- As Max’s office had its own distinct floor space, when in her office actors should have stayed on that space. On at least a couple of occasions characters (Richard and Noel, I think) walked off it when they were still definitely in there. It mattered less when Max was describing the meetings with the twins as it wasn’t so much “real-time”. Also it was odd having a curtain wall (when there was a flat across
the stage), as whenever the door shut the curtain moved and the pictures reflected the stage briefly.
- When Richard and Noel had left the restaurant for the first time, and walked into the next scene, I didn’t like the restaurant table being cleared behind them. This was a bit distracting, and as there was definitely room in the wings to do it, I think it should have happened there.
- When Noel commented on the music box’s tune, I didn’t think it had actually started playing. Also, I’m no expert on music boxes, but shouldn’t the music stop when the lid is closed?
- In the restaurant it struck me as a bit odd that the waiters were very smartly dressed but the chairs didn’t match.
- I wondered why the guitar was there. Was it used at a point I missed, or was it just there to symbolise the rock and roll of the title? One of the rules I’ve learnt is that if a thing isn’t being used on stage, particularly in a non-realistic setting like this, it shouldn’t be there.
- I thought the diary could have been a proper diary rather than a folder, and it did look as if the writing in it was typed; would Richard have been the type to write by hand, or was he so tidy that he had to type everything to get it right?
All minor criticisms, I hope you’ll agree. Other touches I really liked were the shaft of light on the music box at the beginning and diploma at the end, and having Richard reading Good Housekeeping while Noel went through his porn mag – little things like that can make a play extra poignant or amusing and were well thought out.
Congratulations to all involved. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this show for the first time, and I was pleased to be able to help you out. I hope that you are well pleased with your production, that I might be able to do a crit for you again and that I will see lots of you at our Canterbury Tales performance in the Mill on the 14th September!
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