first night

Keep it Casual

DDF is over but the new writing continues as Sam Kingston-Jones reviews Rachel Nwokoro's Keep it Casual

If there is one thing of which writer and director Rachel Nwokoro cannot be accused, it is aversion to risk. Portraying five separate narratives in one venue is no easy task. Factor in that all five occur in the space of forty minutes and you begin to comprehend the magnitude of the task in hand.

Following the lives and loves of seven characters in five separate narratives, Keep it Casual is unusually episodic for a stage play. The scenes are brief and the focus regularly shifts between narratives. Whilst this holds the audience’s attention there is a feeling of disorientation. No sooner does the audience relax into the scene than they are catapulted into the next.

Nonetheless, each individual thread of narrative is tenderly articulated. Whether portraying silent communications between awkward lovers or the endless amblings of a drunkard; Nwokoro proves herself an engaging writer; vast contrasts between scenes show range of authorship, as seven distinctively different voices are authentically portrayed.

It is through the promiscuous character of Kat, however, that the playwright truly comes into her own. Praise is also due here to Lily Drake, who executes every theatrical task demanded of her with aplomb. In both seduction and screaming, Drake proves herself more than capable, commanding the stage as she confronts her audience head-on.  

Audience interaction is perhaps the production’s biggest asset. Considering the lack of installation theatre at Durham, each actor appears at complete ease with their uncomfortably close audience. There is not a hesitation or awkward smirk in sight.

Meanwhile the audience is free to roam around what is a visually arresting representation of a very mundane world. A towering wall of post-its, composing one nightmarish to do list, is one particular highlight. Other aspects of set are less successful as a brick pillar made of paper is not entirely believable, especially when cast members rest against it.

Nonetheless, Nwokoro is a very capable director both in orchestrating set and getting the best out of her actors. She clearly has a strong attachment to the characters she has created and has channelled her enthusiasm into her cast.

In linking the play’s narratives together, however, the play begins to falter slightly. Like many of its characters, Keep it Casual lacks clear direction and forward motion. Whilst it may have been the playwright’s intention to illustrate this, the result is nonetheless confusing.

The segments are supposedly linked by the musings of a drunkard but his observations are too ambiguous to give the play cohesion. Similarly, brief motifs which echo across multiple narratives are not enough to join the narratives together. The intrigue that initially captured the audience’s curiosity is left unresolved. The result is a tinge of disappointment as the play draws to a close, but this does not impact upon the action that preceded it.



12 June 2011

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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