Mancub and The Children

July 23, 2015 | By | Reply More

New reviews from All Edinburgh Theatre’s new writers

This August, All Edinburgh Theatre is proud to be taking on four young Edinburgh-based reviewers in a new mentoring initiative.

Working with Julie McDonald, director of The Drama Studio, Æ has recruited four of their young actors who will be taking the understanding of theatre they have learned from performance and applying it to a critical stance from the other side of the footlights.

All Edinburgh Theatre‘s coverage of the fringe this year will, as usual, be focused on theatre made in Edinburgh. But for now, here are the reviews filed by Jon White, Aran Prince-Tappe and Gregor Weir after seeing the LYT’s productions of Mancub and The Children. Annie Bird will join the team when she gets back from holiday.

I’m looking forward to more great reviews from all four in what will, undoubtedly, be a busy fringe. And look out next week, when we will reveal more news of our critics scheme.

Thom Dibdin (Editor)

Mancub

✭✭✭✩✩    Great Potential

Review by Jon White

A bright, quirky comedy, Mancub at the Lyceum deals with some serious, and not so serious, issues that young people have to face.

Douglas Maxwell’s adaptation of John Levert’s book Flight of the Cassowary is being performed by young people from their Summer On Stage programme as part of a double bill with The Children.

Mancub Rehearsals. Photos: LYT

Mancub Rehearsals. Photos: LYT

The play follows a young boy, Paul (Alexander Levi), and the various trials and tribulations he faces as a young teenager. Animals are central to this piece as Paul describes people and events in animal terms such as calling his dad ant-man and seeing the penalty box as a goalkeeper as his territory.

Paul struggles with teenage life and his identity believing that he can become different animals. This can be taken as either magical or a metaphor where he takes on their characteristics depending on the situation.

Five narrators – Gowan Mackay, Emily Ward, Anna Pidoux, Sophie Morris-Maciocia and Katherine Gardner – are on stage until almost the end with microphones. They provide a calm and clear narrative, filled with humour and at points their voices chorus together melodically.

Another outstanding performance comes from Tom Borley as football coach Susskind. He has a great presence and portrays the stereotypical over-enthusiastic, pushy and even overemotional sports coach with excellent timing and confidence.

Carson Ritchie as Paul’s best friend Jerry puts across his character’s emotions well: the friend trying to help Paul and the abused son who tries to hide his pain behind jokes about his dad. This involves an interesting sequence where Simon Williams (Jerry’s Dad) uses a voice changing microphone.

Where this production falls short is not on acting or energy but on the use of the set. Director Xena Marwick only uses small area of the stage, downstage left, where action consistently takes place and for this reason props and furniture are often being brought to and from this one area which leads to lengthy set changes. During these changes flashing lights and music are used that stop entertaining after the first change.

The stage at times feels full as many of the cast are left sitting at the back which can distract from the main action. However, for Karen (Emma Gribbon) and Paul’s date at the zoo and the big football match the stage is fully utilised and it works so well you feel more could be done with the whole stage.

A thoroughly enjoyable play which contains flashes of brilliant acting and comedy. Issues over staging and overuse of an onstage camera do detract, but not enough to stop it from addressing some of the real issues with which teenagers struggle.

The Children

✭✭✭✩✩

Review by Aran Pince-Tappe

Lyceum Youth Theatre deliver a bleak and pessimistic production of Edward Bond’s The Children as part of a double bill in their Summer on Stage programme.

The play chronicles the experiences of a group of children when one of their number burns down a house upon the demand of her disturbed mother. The children find themselves wandering a desolate, deserted landscape, with no other people in sight.

Confrontation in The Children. Photo Alexander Van Der Byl

Confrontation in The Children. Photo Alexander Van Der Byl

The production conveys the bleak and unforgiving tone of the story well, using a grey, stormy background and minimalist set design. The tense and sporadic soundtrack also heightens the effect of scenes, either increasing the tension of several dramatic scenes or conveying the bleakness of the characters’ situation and surroundings.

Director Christie O’Carroll brings out strong performances in the key roles. Of particular note are Caitlin Mitchard as Jo, who opens the play with an engaging, very well-performed dramatic monologue; and Jenny Barron as her mother, who convincingly portrays an utterly broken woman. Her character is memorable for her emotional manipulation of her daughter, which adds additional dramatic weight to their relationship. The large supporting cast also deliver, all giving good, believable performances.

Despite the clear hard work put into the production, however, Edward Bond’s plot feels somewhat unresolved by the conclusion of the play. A great many ideas are introduced in the middle of the story, but many of them remain unaddressed by the end. This leaves too many questions and as a result an experience that is not as satisfying as the hard work and good performances in the production deserve.

A strong, well-acted piece with an effective tone, which stands out despite its incomplete conclusion.

Mancub

✭✭✭✭✩

Review by Gregor Weir

The playful innocence created by the Lyceum Youth Theatre in their hilarious rendition of Mancub will surely transport anyone back to their days of playground patter and clammy palms.

Paul is a young boy struggling to keep up with the strange and confusing teenage world. In addition to having to deal with the everyday struggles of being a teenager, Paul also finds complications in that he thinks he can transform into various animals at his own will.

Th Mancub cast in rehearsal. Photo: LYT

Th Mancub cast in rehearsal. Photo: LYT

The plot is comforting despite its eccentricity, as familiarity can be found in Alexander Levi’s convincing portrayal of Paul’s teenage awkwardness. Levi communicates excellently the roller coaster emotions associated with being young, and handles very well the often fairly steep changes in emotion demanded by the script.

The humour in the show is innocent and youthful, in keeping with the general tone of the production. Yet the play still manages to tickle the funny bones. Freya Groves is an excellent example of this in her sarcastic portrayal of Fideles, the fed up biology teacher.

However Mancub also aims to tackle slightly more serious issues, such as abuse, in the scene where Paul’s friend Jerry (Carson Ritchie) is struck by his father. Although the acting in this scene is very good, it seems to unnecessarily depress an otherwise very light-hearted and playful production, and the plot point never really develops as deeply as expected. However, the use of a shadow screen for this scene must be applauded, as it gave Paul’s father a more ominous and beastly feel.

Mancub is a wonderful combination of wit and youthfulness that is packed full of nostalgia. The actors communicate this well, and show the Youth Theatre in a very positive light. Overall, Mancub will leave you clapping your paws together in praise.

ENDS

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