Friday, 21 July 2017

Review Three

by Sophie Ellerby

What Will Survive Of Us Is Love

The future seems brighter than ever before for one family.

A call centre promotion is in sight for eldest Rochelle (Alice Vilanculo) who is going steady with policeman Dan (Emanuel Vuso).

Carefree schoolgirl Tia (Ikra Ali) is on the cusp of womanhood and her 16th birthday. Maybe the middle sister Jaz (Courtney Spencer) is drifting and a bit wild, but they're all looking forward to Tia's birthday party and, even better, their Dad, released from prison, is going to be able to join them.

But that same night their lives are torn apart by a terrible event, family relationships shattered and the three young women are tainted by association, although entirely innocent.

Director Anna Niland orchestrates the 19-strong cast in a play which, while covering a range of issues, manages retain the emotional core between the three sisters at its centre.

Three is a full-length play lasting just over two hours  with actors about to graduate from the National Youth Theatre's Playing Up scheme.

There's an impressive debut by Vilanculo as the rock of the family who finds everything she thought of as solid crumbling away. There is also a delicate performance from Ali as the youngest who has to grow up quickly, while Spencer convinces as troubled third sister Jaz

But the other actors in supporting roles are also equal to a thought-provoking, ambitious piece. Jordan Bangura and Dionne Brown as an expectant young couple, Abby Russell as the publicity hungry call centre boss and Aston McAuley as a grieving son impressively mix humour and seriousness.
It's a tribute to the writing, directing and acting that it was only late in the play that TLT realised the drama draws loosely on the structure and characters in Chekhov's The Three Sisters. Playwright Ellerby manages to make the story her own, looping in issues but keeping the situations real with all the question marks hanging over them.

Niland carefully paces a play, veering towards screenplay with its quick-cut scene changes, drawing it back into a theatrical experience alongside movement director Kane Husbands.   A police raid and the increasing media spotlight are ingeniously and economically evoked. 

The set designed by Kate Lane makes full use of the Arcola Space. The main stage is flanked by two spaces, stage left and right, in the midst of the audience - a bedroom on one side and a bench on a patch of grass on the other.

On an upper tier composer Roly Botha like a club DJ controls  the inventive and affecting soundscape, put together with John Castle who also does lighting,

We saw it on the first night of a three-night run until July 22 and the flaws were minor - the occasional dropped voice, perhaps understandable as well with the televisual nature of Ellerby's sophisticated script.

This is an intriguing and substantial set of emerging talent, both in the acting and the script in a play which uses rather than is controlled by cliché to become truly poignant and searching. It's a green light.

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