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Armed with a notepad and a pint, Benjie Beer heads into the crossfire of Spotlights’s Shotlights, to watch the stalwarts of Bristol’s dramatic scene turn on each other…

On a night out around a year ago, somewhere in between the end of the beer and the start of the spirits, Bristol DramSoc came up with an inspired new idea: a play that would be performed once sober, and then again drunk. Thus Shitebear was loosed on the world, instantly becoming a favourite with Bristol student drama’s loyal. And perhaps it will maintain that status for years to come, if it can prevent this year’s controversy from recurring: a certain actor—who will, for this paragraph at least, remain nameless— collapsing from alcohol at precisely the moment he was supposed to be appearing onstage. In the panicked hours that followed, it was reasonable to wonder if this sort of thing had rendered itself unrecoverable.

But as it happened, Mister van der Wusten was one of many to not only take the brunt of the jokes in Spotlights’s new show Shotlights, but in fact to finally make that appearance onstage—as himself. And thus the future of the drinking show was saved, and in outstanding manner too.

At no point did Shotlights attempt to be anything other than honest about what it was: a group of friends and colleagues spending an evening ridiculing each other, and having a great time in doing so

Shotlights is Spotlights’s answer to Shitebear: seven ten-minute long, student written pieces that poke fun at the Bristol drama scene, performed once sober and once drunk—with rather a large interval in between.

The first of many, we hope…

The Room Above has seldom seen so much laughter in one night. In fact, it often seemed as if the audience temporarily forgot how not to laugh as the actors bounced joyously through pieces that shredded each and every show the university has produced in the last seven months: TRASh, CRAM, Showcase, A View From the Bridge, The Bluebird, and more. No play, society or individual escaped unscathed.

The really excellent thing about the evening was that despite the high quality of writing and acting and the sense of occasion it carried, Shotlights never got carried away with itself. There was no illusion of pretence. Ashley Hodgson’s piece, for example, featured an utterly hilarious poem that guided freshers through the world of Bristol drama, picking fun at the length of proposals and Dramsoc’s idea of ‘naturalistic drama’: ‘THERE IS MORE TO OUR RELATIONSHIP THAN IS IMMEDIATELY APPARENT!’. That is, before Alex van der Wusten enters to have a spirited dig at himself, to rapturous applause—of course.

It was that rare sort of show in which silliness and gaffs appear as successes rather than failures

There is almost too much to write about the individual pieces themselves, but it is possible to say this much: there was neither a weak piece nor performance, the self-deprecation was consistently funny and, while seeming near-impossible given the quality of the sober half, the drunk half somehow managed to improve on it. Think of that what you will…

At no point did Shotlights attempt to be anything other than honest about what it was: a group of friends and colleagues spending an evening ridiculing each other, and having a great time doing so. It was that rare sort of show in which silliness and gaffs appear as successes rather than failures. And it says a huge amount that, although it was built entirely on in-jokes, even those members of the audience not familiar with the Bristol drama scene were laughing along.

Hilarious, clever and warmhearted, it would be grossly unfair to give the first ever Shotlights anything less than five stars—in its own strange way.

★★★★★


What were your thoughts on Spotlights’s Shotlights? Let us know in the comments below or on social media

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