Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"The Doctor and the Devils" - October 2007

The Citizens Young Co have brought Dylan Thomas' tale of bodysnatchers Burke & Hare to life, but with a pulse that is so slow and steady it's borderline comatose. There are a couple of strong performances in here and most are decent enough but it's the tone of the piece that does the damage. As always, Youth Theatre productions are held to the same standards as any professional production.

Much like the Scottish Youth Theatre's Part I of His Dark Materials, the show fails to establish its intentions early on and we get indications that it's all gravely serious resulting in the few moments of humour early on falling flat, and when the atmosphere of doom starts to lift at the end of the first act (with the 'February' gag) it feels out of place and the audience are unsure if they have permission to laugh or not.

The pacing doesn't help and what is actually a fairly short piece drags much more than it should - especially in the first half. After the interval things lighten up noticeably, and I think if they had they established earlier on in the piece that it wasn't all so earnest, it would have been considerably more enjoyable.

The score didn't help matters as although effective in evoking the darkness of the production it was slow and sucked energy from it - the music played at the end of the show as the audience leave would have added so much more to the overall tone.

Martin Haddow gave a good performance as Dr Knox, particularly when delivering his 'lectures' and had some very nice moments of humour near the end although crossing into 'shouty' at times in his final scenes. Performance of the night was undoubtedly Michael Burns as Hare who for me really hit the right tone and was the only performance to really have 'energy' to it. Particularly enjoyable was his scene with Daft Jamie which showed hints of what this production could have been.

I did enjoy the show, but it's a shame it couldn't quite make up its mind just how seriously it wanted to take itself.

The Doctor & The Devils runs until Saturday 20th October in the Circle Studio - all performances are currently sold out.

10 Heckles

Waldorf said...

I really didn't enjoy this, and Statler's covered most of the things that irritated. However one thing he hasn't mentioned was the set. I liked the skyline round the walls, but the main set with its slab/table and step was obtrusive and didn't add anything apart from the give the actors something to avoid.

Anonymous said...

Saw this last night. Enjoyed the story but felt it dragged on a bit. Thought Martin Haddow as Dr Knox was excellent and also Michael Burns as Hare and poor "Daft Jamie". Didn't think any of the female roles were strong and some of the accents were all over the place!

Set was very good

Anonymous said...

i thought the show was fantastic and thought every1 played a fair role!the set was amazing and well done to ll the cast.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was fantastic! There were some very strong performances I'll agree there, with Knox, Hare and Jamie the highlights. There really wasn't enough for the females in the cast, but that's an inherent problem throughout all performing arts. Aside from this, the script was excellent though. Thought the music was funky. The pace could be a bit droopy, you were kind of waiting for them to get on with it in a sense. Some performances were those of people still developing, not really actors yet, but others you could see in a few years as professional. Some voice projection and diction really needs to get cleaned up. One dropped sentence and you feel as if you're suddenly out the loop. Compare to Hamlet at the citz a few weeks ago. Some of the most complicated verse you could find, and not a single 'oft' or 'fie' or 'whereforartthou' (different play I know), was missed. For a youth theatre type of group I thought they did very well, but you can't avoid certain pitfalls which are there because of age/inexperience. This is where they learn!

Anonymous said...

I was taken aback by how enjoyable I found this production.

First off, I'd like to say what good value for money this show was. Only £3 for a student ticket (£6 full price) and the audience were treated to a well constructed and exciting piece of set design unlike anything I've ever seen in the Circle Studio before. Add to that the fabulously rich costume design and epic soundtrack, you could tell that a lot of thought and time had gone into this production.

I found the general ability of the acting to be solid with a number of strong performances that really broke out of the mold one might come to expect from youth theatre.

It has been enjoyable to watch the development of members of this company over their last couple of projects and refreshing to see so many new faces adding to the strong ensemble.

It only seems a shame that we did not get to see more from the girls of the company in this production.

There are still elements that need seeing too such as diction and projection but with a meaty script such as this, allowances can be made for the young, developing actors.

Perhaps the most exciting thing to come from this production is the emergence of a Citizens Young Co "style". I look forward to seeing where they'll take us next!

Statler said...

Firstly, it's great to see so much interest in a production by the Citizens Young Company - I felt at the time looking around the audience that it had benefited from the main theatre being 'dark' that week. Despite Waldorf's comments I quite liked the set, although I'm not sure it justified the trade-off with reduced capacity (I believe there was demand for additional tickets)

As mentioned in our review, we comment on all youth/student/amateur productions as if professional - to do otherwise doesn't do the cast or audience any favours in the long term, and in fact we've seen many youth and student productions put so-called professional ones to shame.

Yes, youth theatre is about learning, but that learning also includes that performances will not always be well received (even great ones will often divide opinion) and it's fairly clear from the comments here that we weren't alone in finding problems with the production. Having seen previous Citizens Young Co shows, I actually find it hard to view "Doctor and the Devils" as a progression - for me, it didn't come close to the quality of Geeks, Greeks and Party Myths.

We do, of course, continue to look forward to future Young Co shows.

Anonymous said...

On regard to walfords comment i would like to first question is he or she a drama student? If you are not I feel your comments to be grossly unfair and lacking any real depth, " I really didnt enjoy this", could you elaborate?(particularly if you are studying acting/performance) rather than leaving your throw away comment about a simple table for us all to mull over. As you have probably correctly guessed I was heavily involved with this production and fully appreciate that all theatre is there to be analysed, praised and criticised and as a student actor this is all a fantastic experience but until you understand the process that is involved and how tiring and demanding it is I suggest you stay away from review until you know what your talking about. If low and behold you are a fellow acting student-you should know better.

Waldorf said...

For the record my involvement with theatre is purely as one of those people who fill the seats (and pays their money). We state clearly in the blog that we're just ordinary punters who go to theatre to have a good time. The reviews/comments we make here a purely a side product of that aim.

Do I appreciate the effort that goes into putting on any production? Yes I think I do. Especially in amateur productions where the cast commit considerable free time to put on a 'professional' show. However that doesn't stop me saying that I didn't enjoy a show or that I thought there were weaknesses. To be anything less than honest would be insulting to those taking part, and also those reading.

I felt Statler had covered most of what I had felt about the show (possibly more diplomatically than I could have), and merely wanted to mention something about the set that had irritated me during the performance. It's possibly shallow to get distracted by the set. However if one audience member is being distracted by it, then they might not be alone. The set should work with the actors not against them. And I felt elements of this design were an obstacle (as I said above I liked the cityscape skyline).

As I've said, I agreed with almost everything Statler had said with the exception of him having enjoyed it - because I didn't. I didn't hate it, I would have said if I did. For him the problems still resulted in an overall enjoyable show, for me they didn't.

With the danger of repeating Statler I felt the production didn't gel. It seemed a collection of disparate parts. Statler mentions a lack of 'energy'. I didn't actually feel that the cast were enjoying what they were doing and that maybe impacted on my enjoyment. As someone involved in the production you can maybe correct me on that, but that was my perception on the night.

I hope that's enough of a clarification for you, but I really didn't think my additional comments warranted re-hashing Statler's post.

Anonymous said...

Goodness me, this has opened up a can of worms, hasn't it!

For the commenter who mention that they were heavily involved in the production they need to realise that of course not everyone enjoys the same thing. Also, this is a personal blog and not national press. Some comments could be elaborated on slightly more eloquently but everybody is allowed their own point of view.

I think this production has attracted more attention than previous Young Co shows as it has been a set text in schools for a number of years and will have a wider audience than the new writing the Company have performed previously.

I have heard that the first night of the run didn't flow too well and I may be right in believing that this was the night being reviewed here. I think the actors must have picked up confidence towards the end of the run. It seems a shame that the View From the Stalls reviewers were not party to later performances. This may be something for the company to work with to ensure they deliver a high caliber throughout the run.

Statler said...

Thanks for some interesting thoughts. As you noted, the performance we saw was the first night of the production. We try to see shows early on, especially if a run is short, in order to let others catch any shows we may be particularly taken by (although we do try to avoid seeing anything described as a Preview).