Between the inward facing pews of Bede Chapel, in front of judges – silhouetted by a row of dazzling lights – students would come and perform a monologue. It was certainly a difficult and intimidating task, holding conversations with imaginary people and being asked to bring an audience down to the pits of despair that classical characters are doomed to enter. The performers did an admirable job overall, their passion was very clear, but some monologues shone through more than others.
Most of the characters picked were in unenviable situations. Georgia Onslow held her baby child even as she knew the Greeks would throw it off a cliff. As the judges said though, everyone could have taken their acting that step further. If they were to take my baby I’d lose it. The person who came closest to the ideal though was the eventual winner of the competition, Helena Baker. A lover gripping with unfaithfulness, her scene is enhanced when she takes out a prop knife and asks for it to be used on her. Staring into the audience with mad eyes, waving a knife around, was very effective – the judges clearly agreed.
It is unfortunate the judges could only pick a winner and a runner up, as other performances deserve commendation. Ginny Leigh was captivating, trembling with grief and anger as Hamlet processes his mother marrying his uncle so soon after his father’s death, although her performance was sadly short. Rose Galbraith (the runner up), Imogen Usherwood, and Jacob Freda win the title of sass queens from me. All three waltzed around the space, oozing mischief. Imogen’s sarcasm laced line of “I am ashamed that women are so simple” was hilarious. However, all performances could do with a little more polish. Jacob Freda could do with more clarity of speech with his evil hand waving. Henry Bird had the voice and power of a leading Roman politician in Julius Caesar but his fiddling with the lectern didn’t match.
A competitor who also had power was Tom Jacobs, who’s performance in “The last days of Troy” was shocking for the imposing nature Tom brought to the character, Achilles abandoning the king of Troy, but also shocking for the really foul language used against the aforementioned king. Vankshita Mishra chose the classic scene of Juliet about to take the vial of sleeping potion. Talking about death and betrayal, she conveyed the classic Shakespearian tortured character in a classic way.
All in all, DUCT’s annual showcase is a great way to get a little taste of a lot of classical theatre, and the standard is very high. All the more reason to go see DUCT’s future shows, given their large wealth of talented actors.