Venue: The Space @ Symposium Hall
Theatre Paradok’s latest effort Catching Up is a further attempt from the bold youthful company to push the boundaries of amateur theatre. Director Bella Forshaw’s production shoots for the moon and lands among the stars as it speeds towards its uniquely intriguing, albeit slightly confusing, conclusion. It’s a script with a lot of impressive ideas but it seems unsure of its goal — by the time the lights go to black for the last time, you are ultimately left with more questions than answers.
Catching Up follows two childhood friends, Leonard Shaw’s “Sean” and Lizzie Martin’s “Lemon”, on a writing retreat in the country which turns into a bad trip down memory lane when the drugs and alcohol come out. It’s not an uncommon device, but there are unique sections of interpretative dance and audio design that serve to get across the sense of despair and confusion that ensues.
I think this play could really do with a longer runtime and a bigger production value to flesh things out a bit more, but what you do see definitely sticks with you. Characters’ motivations and actions aren’t really given enough explanation, leaving the audience questioning how to feel about the events on stage. The interplay between young and old versions of the characters is especially refreshing in how it seeks to illustrate how we access memories and view ourselves. There are genuinely funny comedic turns from some of the performers, notably Sean and his young counterpart (Tom Hindle), but they ultimately don’t serve to move the plot along, which only properly gets going in the last ten minutes.
From a technical standpoint, there were times when it seemed like the lighting cues were off, as characters would perform the start of their dialogue in darkness, as the previous scene was still lit. It wasn’t apparent if this was a choice to show the ambiguity of the barriers between the two narratives, but regardless it served to distract from immersion in the piece. Performance-wise, the actors didn’t always seem to disappear into their characters, and a particular scene involving tampering with a drink is almost played like a pantomime with the character all but winking at the audience; such moments detract from merits the performance otherwise possesses.
It’s important to support student productions like Catching Up because they are often the weathervane for success further down the road, and it is a rare treat to see young creatives testing out their original ideas. Catching Up is rough around the edges, but the potential in the performers and the writing is undeniable, and Theatre Paradok’s next moves should certainly be followed with interest.
Dates: Aug 16-21 (17:25)
Images: Andrew Perry