Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Review Escape The Scaffold

Student friendship and rivalry turn to expediency and ruthlessness after graduation, Peter Barker discovers in a passionate new play. 

Escape The Scaffold
By Titas Halder

Haunted House

Flitting backwards and forwards through time, this psychological thriller follows the lives of Aaron (Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge), Marcus (Charlie Reston) and Grace (Rosie Sheehy) from three very different but inextricably-linked flat-share students to a future of skewed lives.

Titas Halder’s witty and dark second play Escape The Scaffold consolidates the promise of his debut piece Run The Beast Down. As with the previous drama, the playwright in Escape The Scaffold explores both individual psyches and a breakdown in society.  

The two men are love rivals yet also at times firm friends. Aaron is the idealist, a student activist, while public school-educated ambitious Marcus is fixated on his career and both struggle for the affections of artist Grace.

At first their future seems filled with potential  but student promise and companionship eventually disintegrate into the need for self preservation within a dystopian state.

The double time scale exposes and leads the audience to trace and understand what the two men and one woman once were and the people they become.

Aaron returns to the student digs of his younger days to find Grace and Marcus now a married couple - and homeowners both of the flat and a sinister cellar. Remaining the idealist, Aaron finds himself a wanted man on the run from the forces of a totalitarian state where he is viewed as a dangerous subversive.

Meanwhile Marcus, once the university student union president, has become more than just part of the establishment. He is a spook willing to undertake torture under orders from the authoritarian regime.
Halder's absorbing script demonstrates a talent to build suspense  with pungent, even lyrical language while threading together two separate periods of time and introducing a seam of dark humour.

Driven by love, ambition, ego, idealism and treachery, each of his protagonists ultimately prove questionable characters. Sheehy gives Grace, forced to choose between the two men,  an initial appeal until her personality hardens and coarsens over the course of time. Reston's Marcus, honed by an exclusive education, manages to combine the appalling with a compelling vitality.

Hannah Price's assured, pacey direction, never lets the momentum flag as the repercussions of the spy state impact on the trio and audience. Nonetheless, amid all this, Halder's own persuasive humour is allowed to  emerge.

The versatile, dilapidated Victorian house set of Mark Bailey also allows the actors themselves to change the set, while alongside lighting by Katy Morison and sound by Chris Bartholomew,  the homely eventually changes into horrific. 

Escape the Scaffold has flair and wit in character and plotting, braiding past and future together, all laced with a sharp twist of horror and deserving a green light.

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