By Rianna Houghton, Arts Editor
Directed by Rosalie Roger-Lacan and Amber Charlie-Conroy, and produced by Cecelia Quant, Hamsters is comedic theatre at its finest and most heart-warming. All cast members were exceptional in their portrayal of affection, frustration and chaotic hilarity and incredibly well deserving of the standing ovation given by the sold-out audience.
Hamsters is a truly joyous production about friendship, love, and the importance of expressing your emotions.
The show began seamlessly with Alice Bebber, playing the role of Hannah, expertly maintaining character whilst the excited audience continued to converse for half an hour before the lights dropped, decorating the prop that was later revealed to be the birthday present for best friend Francine, played by the wonderful Molly Grogan.
This unique beginning flawlessly breathed life into the characters as they quickly erupted into havoc on stage with the arrival of Peanut, the hamster, as said birthday present. The plot then followed the frenzied disruption and harmony that Peanut brought to the characters’ journeys through emotional trials of love and loss.
Elsa Rae Llewelyn gave an incredibly moving performance navigating her character’s break up with partner Hannah. The soberness of this story line was offset by the fine-tuned awkwardness of the blossoming new relationship between Francine and Frank, played by Nathan Spellman, with their first meeting involving the less than sober spilling of red wine in nervous enthusiasm.
Hamsters handled integral themes of supportive friendships and therapy with sensitivity infused with comedic ease, especially when it came to the eccentric character of Ernie, a loveable rodent-shop owner, played brilliantly by Tom Wilson-Dowdeswell. Randomly adopted by Hannah to be a friend in a time of loneliness, Ernie embodied the essentiality of expressing your emotions and seeking help for your worries. The take-away message of this play was that vulnerability and hardship never have to be experienced alone.
The stage was compact but skilfully used, adorned with an eclectic array of props ranging from a shrine-like shelf for a stuffed hamster, to the coats, jackets and aprons variously worn by the characters throughout the show. The use of space was incredibly creative; at several points, the characters would be involved in various conversations, but rotate to let the audience catch fragments of their discussions.
At its most entirely joyful, Hamsters involved audience participation, as we were encouraged to sing along to Francine’s and Frank’s loving and quirky rendition of Edelweiss, and ironically when we were asked to stand for the funeral procession of Peanut, the beloved hamster; many audience members struggled to suppress infectious laughter at this melancholy scene.
Speaking to Epigram after the final showing, Molly Grogan expressed that ‘It was just the most joyous process, being surrounded by so much playfulness – in the rehearsals especially, Ros and Ambie encouraged us from the very start to play like we were kids again. With the script and the stage and set, and with each other. Being supported by a wonderful team of women who were running the shop behind the scenes was also so special. It was just so refreshing to read a play that was so silly but also subtly moving.’
Talkers and Doers are a fantastic female-led Bristol-based theatre company that ‘celebrate the everyday nonsense through new writing.’ Their last production, 100 Seconds to Midnight, sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe festival 2022, and they are headed to the Fringe again this August with their comedy 1 Tent. 4 Girls. I urge you to support their incredible efforts by following their Instagram page @talkers.and.doers and keeping a look-out for their Kickstarter page to help the cast and crew stay in Edinburgh during August.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Epigram
What did you think of Hamsters by Talkers & Doers?