Elephants

Date 21st February 2020
Society Tamaritans Theatre Company
Venue The Red House Theatre - Plymouth School of Creative Arts
Type of Production Play
Director Suzanne MacPherson

Report

Author: S. Burne

I was delighted to be given the opportunity to review 'Elephants', by Tamaritans Theatre Company taking place in February 2020 in The Red House Theatre within Plymouth School of Creative Arts.

I knew the space that the Tamaritans would be performing in and was curious to see how they transformed the theatre studio. Upon entering the theatre, I was instantly blown away by the set, built by 'The Tuesday Gang' (who I have since tried to Google to find out more about their work and was met with countless articles on gang violence… eerily relevant for the content of this play!) The set was a realistic living room, dining room and shed, complete with kitchen hatch, hallways and doors. The attention to detail was incredible and I was hugely impressed with the quality. We were encouraged by a member of the front of house team to inspect the pictures above the fireplace, as they would be referred to during the play, so this was a thoughtful detail.

The play started with an upbeat scene between two of the protagonists, Richard, played by Clive Lovatt and Sally, played by Catherine Teague. They set the pace with their comedic delivery of dialogue and delivery of the story. They had a wonderful dynamic and were believable in their roles, Clive bringing a wry humour and Catherine as his long-suffering but seemingly positive partner.

We then met Dick and Val, played by Richard Haighton and Debbie Temple respectively. Richard's comedy timing was impeccable, and Debbie brought incredible warmth and sensitivity to her role. Again, both bringing real believability to their performances, whilst keeping their delivery heightened to keep the pace of the comedic dialogue. All four had excellent projection and diction, every line was delivered clearly.

In a scene between 'Valerie' and 'Sally', I noted the performers skill at keeping an energetic pace, without going over the top or losing dialogue. First time director for the Tamaritans, Suzanne MacPherson, clearly had worked well with all the cast, working on their delivery and focusing on how to keep the story moving with energy but keeping the play at an effective tempo.

The plot thickened as other characters were introduced. Daisy, played by Rhea Preston and Lizzy, played by Ang Owiti added to the drama unfolding throughout each scene. Rhea had an incredibly challenging task in playing the troubled and complex Daisy. She handled this challenge well, bringing light and shade to the character's interactions and in portraying Daisy's changeable emotions. Ang was an incredibly natural performer, reacting to everything in character and delivering dialogue clearly and with great skill, she played the role with subtlety and thoughtfulness.

In a surreal twist, Daisy's deceased brother Christopher, played by Daryl Smith Wightman, appears on Christmas Eve. The poignant scene was played well by both Rhea and Daryl, who gave the character of Christopher a personable and real dimension, as he'd been only spoken about by other characters up until that point. The naturalistic approach of Daryl's performance gave the scene (that could have potentially been somewhat absurd, with his character appearing in a Santa suit with stab wounds from his murder) real gravitas.

As the story reached a crescendo, we saw huge depth from each performer. In a touching scene between 'Richard' and 'Dick' in which they speak about Christopher's death and Richard's issues with alcohol, I was hugely impressed with both performer's abilities to negotiate a scene that went from incredibly touching moments to humorous ones. 'Sally' returning gave Catherine Teague an opportunity to show incredible diversity in her performance, when we learn that Sally had known about her son's dark past and had been trying to keep things together for her family, buckling under pressure. Ang Owiti and Rhea Preston also had opportunities to delve deeper into their character's facets, showing their ability and skill in portraying their character's complicated dispositions.

Suzanne MacPherson's directorial choices were clearly hugely effective, the cast had a fantastic dynamic and it was distinctly well-rehearsed. There were moments in the play that could have been incredibly difficult to negotiate, however it was easy and enjoyable to watch. The audience had a fantastic time watching it, and reactions went from howling with laughter to a complete silence, they were undeniably completely engaged with the action.

The team behind 'Elephants' should be highly commended for their hard work, scene changes were executed smoothly, and both the lighting and sound supplemented the action onstage effectively. Costumes were naturalistic and again complimented the story and dialogue. I was so impressed with the hot food that was served onstage, it gave a four-dimensional feel to the scene with the scent of the dinner wafting over the audience!

Congratulations and commendations to The Tamaritans for this fantastic performance, thoroughly enjoyed by me and the audience in attendance. I thought this was an excellent choice of play: difficult issues and themes were handled sensitively. The company clearly is continuing to thrive in their ninth decade and using their skill and passion to create a fantastic performance.

S. Burne

NODA SW District 3