By Milan Perera, Arts Critic Columnist
Bristol’s DramSoc is back for another year of exceptional theatre productions to enthral, enchant, and entertain the theatre lovers of the student community and beyond. DramSoc kicked off the year in style with their first major production: TRASh. As the nights draw in and winter approaches, it’s time to take your seat at the spacious Winston Theatre and relish the crème de la crème of student theatre.
TRASh is a tour de force of 80 years of theatre condensed into eight short segments, capturing the zeitgeist of each decade with enthusiasm. It is a monumental production with some 70 cast members, bringing the delights of theatre to a sold-out audience who slowly trickled into the Winston Theatre with pint glasses in their stamped hands.
The eight segments and their respective directors are
1950s – I Love Lucy (Lola Annesley and Rosalie Roger-Lacan)
1960s – Monty Python (Brandon Hamilton and Lilly Camyab)
1970s – The Muppets (Stan Abbott-Stacey and Edie Da Costa Jackson)
1980s – The Breakfast Club (Maui Connock and Calum Thorne)
1990s – Derry Girls (Amber Conroy and Cecelia Quant)
2000s – Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow (Ella Hakin and Sadie Mears)
2010s – The Windsors (Molly Grogan and Benji Oliveira)
2020s – The Play That Goes Wrong (Emma van Elzakker and Joe Hayward)
Proceedings for the evening were launched in style when the three “poster girls” starring Nicole Antoine, Lily Porter and Bea Henderson made a dramatic entrance; capturing the 1950s was I Love Lucy, the benchmark of American Sitcom. Alice Bebber was magnificent in channelling her inner Lucille Ball which reduced the audience to laughter. Angelique Trinder was impeccable as Ricky Ricardo with his roguish exasperation, while Evie Cooper deftly played the director.
The reimagining of Monty Python is a monumental task even for seasoned thespians, but the superb cast captured the essence of the comic titans to perfection. “Look, my lad, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.”, “No, no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'!” had the audience in stitches with the nonchalant delivery from Keir Churchill and Fran Davidson. There were superbly executed slapstick elements that gave a glistening veneer to the sketch, with plenty of slapping and hammer blows.
The Muppet Show brought back to life the beloved characters such as Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. It also introduced some unfamiliar but equally sophisticated characters like Harry Styles! Madeline Willis was sublime as Miss Piggy with her signature gesticulating, while her foil, Kermit, was played with refreshing exuberance by Max Taylor. The smooth-talking Harry Styles (Leila Entwistle), with his existential monologues, will not come between them.
The 80s rebellious teen spirit was distilled into the Breakfast Club segment, where five contrasting personalities were given detention and forced to complete an assignment. Evan Moynihan, Paige Cooper, Chloe Hunkin, Aké Kibona and Leonardo Morgan-Russell captured anxieties, brashness and confusion with empathy. Max Goldstone excels as the martinet, Principal Vernon.
After the interval it was a visit to the 90s and to meet the Derry Girls. As they appeared on stage to the sound of Dreams by the Cranberries there was raucous applause from the audience. The expectant crowd were not disappointed as the beloved and eccentric characters came to life. Uncle Colm’s catatonic stares and monotonous speech were deftly captured by Matthew Hill, while Meabh Brolly executed the fiery, swearing and rebellious persona of Michelle to a tee.
As we headed into the new millennium it was time for “Dick and Dom” to steal the show. Jago Abbott and Libby Gutteridge-Smith were superb in the titular roles and the boundless energy they brought to the set was simply astonishing. They were joined by the weird and wonderful characters of Food Fairy, Pussy Cat and Prize Idiot; it was pandemonium. The bottom-tapping dance routine of the cast erupted the Winston Theatre with laughter as they took their curtain call.
It was then time for a dose of the Windsors as you have never envisaged before. The homage to the hit Channel 4 comedy went down a treat with the audience as the Royal household’s misadventures and misfortunes came to light. Andrew Graham portrayed the monarch with a flourish that would have made Harry Enfield proud. But who could forget Sadie Pearson’s Theresa May whose sidesteppings and scheming were the stuff of pantomime villains.
Last but not least, it was time for a visit to “The Play That Goes Wrong”. The stellar cast rose to the challenge by capturing the eccentricity of the dramatis personae with precision and perfection. Who could forget Fran McDaid’s Perkins who could not seem to retain a line! Mia Rudden was sensational as the leading lady, Florence Collymore. The slapstick elements were neatly executed, as when Florence was knocked to the ground by a swinging door.
The final curtain call came amidst a standing ovation. The glittering evening of theatre was a testament to the great talent of the DramSoc who delivered once again with flamboyance and finesse.
TRASh runs from the 13th – 15th October at the Winston Theatre.
Featured image: courtesy of Milan Perera
Have you got your tickets to see TRASh?