Terminus

Date 13th July 2013
Society Holt Dramatic Society
Venue The Village Hall, Holt
Type of Production Play
Director Lizzy Ward

Report

Author: Nick Lawrence - Councillor

A visit to Holt promises something different and challenging and “Terminus” was no exception.  With a script written by locals Al Brunker and John Palmer the cast and production team took up the challenge and ran with it.  

To be greeted, when entering the auditorium, by a simple row of ordinary chairs staring at one was slightly disturbing, but this was an inspired way of dealing with the individual characters and proved to be a totally successful.  It was good to hear that other possible solutions were tried in rehearsal before this design was fixed upon.

First and foremost with this presentation was the clear diction of the actors.  With new material it is so important that everyone can hear without strain.  Although most of the style was gently conversational in nature, there was no problem in hearing what each character had to say and so it could be followed with ease.  The highs and lows were well handled and the pace varied appropriately ensuring the audience had no problem paying attention.

Secondly, every character was well drawn: not only by the authors but by the individual actors.  This was a piece which relied on carefully constructed characterisation.  Everyone had a past and it was vital that this aspect was well grounded as the script didn’t reveal all at one go.   Each character was clearly defined and the regular nature of their present was well built upon their past.  Everyone looked comfortable in their surroundings and effortlessly drew the audience into their world.  Here the script gave wonderful support to the actors as it wove its way through their lives. 

The characters were maintained throughout with no sign of effort.  Even when frozen each was very appropriately posed – continuing the feel of each vignette coinciding with the others.  Clearly collective work in rehearsal and understanding of the script worked in everyone’s favour as each actor was at home with his/her role.  This ensured that the audience felt affinity with each character and sympathy was won where appropriate.

The effectiveness of the characterisation was evident in the placing of each character.  Without aid of complicated scenery or special effects it was obvious where people were: on the train, at the station, at the care home.  The choice not to “stage” the play released the audience to give its attention to what was said and to make connections.  I have never been to Diss Station, but I can imagine that I would have been very critical of any structure that was built.  Without the un-necessary distraction of scenery I was able to “see it” comfortably as I wished it.

The actors who had to address unseen characters handled this with consummate skill.  One could see who they were talking to and imagine responses.  There was no flickering of eye contact with the unseen, dialogue was addressed naturally and reactions to the unheard replies totally realistic.  Meanwhile those who simply let us know what they were thinking didn’t appear contrived, but always in character – excellent examples of the use of monolgue.

The pace of the script was developed gradually and increased in speed and intensity as the dramatic climax approached.  By cleverly not giving away too much information at a time the audience was able to devise its own stories for each person, for many to find they had got it wrong.  The way that the character’s lives gradually revealed their connections was extremely cleverly done.  There were no lightning bolts of discovery which could have caused the audience to distract the actors, but each revelation was a wonder.  The authors are to be congratulated on easing the audience’s path through so many complex connections.

As the story approached its conclusion, with the train approaching Norwich Terminus, and the realisation of what the end was to be one could feel the tension in the audience.   Becoming aware that one could do nothing for these characters for whom we now felt such affinity was quite “gut-wrenching”.  The clever juxta-positioning of the various characters’ responses towards the end was handled skilfully by both actors and authors.  The climax was well timed and not overdone.

That the majority of the cast was on stage throughout presented the actors with a strenuous task which each met with apparent ease and the audience responded in kind.  This was an excellent example of how the atmosphere created by the director and actors can conjure the required response from an audience.  Despite the distractions of the extremely hot evening and the air-less conditions not a moment was missed.   This can only be achieved by commitment to the rehearsal process,  focussed support of one’s fellow actors, helpful assistance of an enthusiastic director and “un-noticeable” support of the technical team.  The teamwork on display here was, for the audience, exemplary. 

In retrospect there were a couple of things I might have dealt with differently, but then, isn’t that the proof of a good piece of theatre.  It should never become a museum piece.  I should be most happy to recommend this play to other companies.

Conclusions:    The Holt Dramatic Society is to be congratulated for taking up the challenge of working with original home-produced material and being prepared to tackle it in an unusual presentation.  The whole production came off very well with realistic characterisation and clear diction which not only drew in the audience but held attention without resorting to cliched theatrical gimmicks.   The Director had clearly empowered the cast with the confidence to stick to what had been rehearsed and trust that the audience would listen and appreciate.  This proved to be a stunning piece of theatre which despite its many complications came together well for its dramatic finale leaving no nagging questions still unanswered. 

An evening I shall remember and relive for a long time to come.