first night

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

Charlotte Thomas settles in for a Bardic romp with Pitch Productions' latest show.

 Ann-Marie Macdonald’s 1988 comedy centres on a young assistant professor – Constance Ledbelly – and her journey of self-discovery, which throws up some familiar characters from Shakespeare’s Othello and Romeo and Juliet along the way. Jasmine Price’s production rounded off the Assembly Rooms Theatre’s (unofficially titled) ‘Othello season’ very nicely, leaving the audience in audible fits of laughter on multiple occasions, and was the perfect pick-me-up as term heads towards exam time.

Walking into the theatre, the set was very impressive, and credit must go to Set Consultant Alissa Cooper, and Producers Isabelle Culkin and Suzy Hawes for this. The array of books and office paraphernalia littering the stage set the mood nicely for the chaos to come. Technical Director Tanya Agarwal and her team - Alice Clarke and Rachel Frame - did a professional, slick job with the tech and some rather tricky scene changes. Any first night glitches were hardly noticeable. One point I would make is that the cast and crew should be aware of the sight-lines backstage. It can be a bit distracting for an audience member to glance up from the enthralling Shakespearian setting and be met with some rather misplaced backstage publicity for The Physicists on the back of someone’s jumper.

A script so fast-moving and intricate requires the cast to keep pace and, for the most part, they did. There were the inevitable line insecurities which come with the first night of a production, however, and this did let the pace drop somewhat in the second half.

 As a general warning, I would say that there were a few cast members who should be aware of their audience in terms of the comedy. While I, and certainly many others in the audience, understood and appreciated the numerous ‘in-jokes’ being made, for anyone else it would make little to no sense. Therefore, at times I feel Price could have reined them in a little bit, as sometimes the true comedy of the script itself was lost. Similarly, some comedic effects/character traits made it hard to understand what certain characters were saying - for example, speaking through a mouthful of food or a misplaced lisp.

This being said, there were some fantastic performances in an already strong cast. Lucy Knight steered us through the whole production as the conflicted Constance, encountering battle, double-crossing and some particularly fluid sexualities along the way.  Knight captured the character’s naiveté at the start beautifully, though some more tonal variation would have helped more fully portray her character’s arc. This being said, Knight gave the audience a character to really root for, and was truly endearing throughout. I especially enjoyed her conversation with Desdemona, in which she realises that she (Constance) does not have to be the ‘mouse’ she is so often made out to be. Not only was it rather touching, but it afforded some great laughs when Constance tries to quell her own vernacular, and speak in a way that Desdemona will understand.

 Special mentions must go to Ellie Bowness for her role as Desdemona, and Tyler Rainford for his Iago. Both Bowness and Rainford, in these particular roles, managed to strike the perfect balance between comic timing and keeping up the pace of the production. Bowness, in particular, demonstrated some genius line delivery playing Othello's bloodthirsty wife, and should be commended for a fantastic all-round performance.

Overall, Pitch Productions’ latest offering was a hilarious romp through two of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays and, with a few tweaks, should go from ‘very good’ to ‘absolutely fantastic’. I urge everyone to go and see it for their final performance this evening – I’ve not laughed so hard for a while!

13 May 2016

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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