Durham Drama Festival Day 3

The performances in the Durham Drama Festival on Friday night were the best of the festival so far. The night included some wonderful shows, excellent acting and even better writing. Highlights included Samuel Jefferson’s hilarious Dust, Ellen Diver’s thought provoking Waiting for Dogfish, and the incredibly powerful A World Without Words, a dance show by Frances Teehan and Jonnie Grande.

Hysterically funny, well acted and very clever, Dust (from Newcastle University) was a brilliant piece that left me wishing it hadn’t ended. Dust tells the story of two men travelling through several works of classic literature, from Sense and Sensibility to A Room With a View, having various misadventures along the way and trying desperately not to destabilize the plots. Referring to the Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility, Tim, the somewhat dimwitted character, asks when “the fit ones” are going to arrive. When they meet Sherlock Holmes, Tim and James become starstruck, and when the famous detective asks their names they call themselves James Bond and Inspector Morse. They get seasick in Moby Dick, and fall in love in A Room With a View (at which point Tim reminds James that Lucy Honeychurch is “fictional you knob-head”), and eventually forge their own path in writing their own ending.

The play raises all sorts of philosophical questions about creating one’s own destiny and the transience of life on earth. Eventually, as Tim wisely points out, all that’s left of us is dust. Very well received, Dust was wildly entertaining and the perfect play for bibliophiles such as myself. The whole cast was excellent, especially the actor who played Tim, and the play was absolutely fantastic overall.

With a very tough act to follow, Durham post-grad Ellen Diver’s Waiting for Dogfish told the story of two children who find a fish in a rock pool and try to decide what it is and what to do with it. The actors playing the children did so with a wonderfully appropriate innocence, and the girl in particular was very convincing at conveying the age she was meant to be playing. After the excitement of the previous performance, Waiting for Dogfish seemed a bit slow, and because it was such a quiet and reflective play, it was tarnished somewhat by the incessant talking going on in the lobby of people waiting to see the next performance. The play was also very philosophical. Joseph, the little boy in the play, tells his sister, “We shouldn’t interfere.” His words, and the play itself, communicate ideas about our own power to affect things, to help people (or dogfish) and to make a difference. In the end, Joseph’s expression implies that the dogfish has in fact died, and it is entirely the children’s fault. Although lacking pace, Waiting for Dogfish was quite a good play.

The much-anticipated A World Without Words, a dance show telling the story of two lovers, was without a doubt the climax of the evening. It opened with the courtship of a boy and a girl with a couple of very funny and rather racy dances leading up to a proposal, which was accepted. From there, the show became very moving, as the newlyweds began to share a life together until the male in question strayed elsewhere. The show was ultimately very tragic, and the music was so well chosen that the effect was unbelievably powerful. While A World Without Words was blemished slightly by some out-of-synch dancers, this did not detract from the overall effect. The first couple of songs contained an implicit criticism of club hookups, suggesting that true romance doesn’t blossom in Loveshack, which was pulled off in a very funny way. In the end, however, the romance was ill-fated, and the female lead was left alone for the rest of her life. An extremely poignant piece, A World Without Words got a very positive response from the audience, resulting in a standing ovation. The show was indeed very impressive.

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