first night

The Goat or Who is Sylvia?

Corinna Harrison enjoys a thrilling drama as LTC present 'The Goat or Who is Sylvia?'

As I walked into City Theatre last night for Lion Theatre Company's production of Edward Albee's The Goat or Who is Sylvia?, I was greeted with an intimate stage clearly resembling a main living space but with a twist. The sofa was made of hay bales, which was illustrative of one of play’s main themes: how do we really view animals and, as Director Katie O'Toole puts it in her programme note, "what would we love or feel if society didn't repress us?" I'm not going pretend that this was an easy or comfortable watch, with the most explosive of domestics and some themes that are rarely explored in DST, yet the premise is one that is almost so ridiculous and laughable that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

There were some tremendous performances and I really appreciated the commitment to fully smashing up the stage—it was highly effective and is rarely seen in student theatre due to budget limitations. Thanks to her utter command of character, for me the standout was Eleanor Hawkins as Stevie, the wronged wife who discovers that her husband has been having an affair with a goat and professes to be in love with them both. Hawkins was extremely believable as a woman approaching 50 years old, with no hint of caricature about her which, coupled with her command of the stage and the range of emotions e by her character, really compelled the audience. It was a shame, therefore, that occasionally this energy or emotional believability could not be matched by Martin, played by Kishore Thiagarajan-Walker, meaning that she was prevented from keeping the conviction fully alive. To help this, Thiagarajan-Walker should be careful to direct more of his speech to the other actors on stage, rather than over the heads of the audience, and be aware of making sure that his physicality doesn't seem forced or awkward.

Barney Mercer, in the role of Martin's best friend Ross, was also perfectly suited to the slightly smarmy and strongly opinionated presenter, with good comedic timing and facial expression. Billy, played by Danny Booth, also gave a solid performance with some good, genuine emotion that was really touching. Although executed well, the tech unfortunately served as a bit of a distraction. Lighting changes sometimes felt random, and whilst the music added to the atmosphere (particularly at the end), it didn’t fit with the kitchen-sink drama feel of the unchanging set and location. That said, the constantly audible ticking clock added immensely to the overall tension, and O'Toole should be praised for staging such an ambitious play that is so absurdist, both in its themes and in the way it is written.

All in all, despite having some gripes about the lack of attention to small details (be it Mercer's brightly coloured odd socks, the lack of wedding rings or an earring unfitting to a woman of Stevie's age), this production was absolutely brilliant and I can't recommend going to watch it enough. It's a real shame that it's on for just one more night as I wish more people could see it.

21 January 2017

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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