first night

Keep it Casual

Surini Ranawake relishes the easy freedom of Keep it Casual

Filled with electric moments and gritty dialogue, Keep it Casual is everything you want it to be, but not necessarily what you want to admit to.

The audience is taken into the depths of Hild Bede’s Undercroft, where the cast begin with an uncomfortable revelation of what they each think about love. These comic yet fatal confessions tell of a surface reality, realities which become tangled yet come uncut. As the actors themselves relax into their roles, the audience does too, as you follow the cast into various physical spaces over the course of the performance.

Small snapshots of the lives of two couples are animated and effective, as anyone can relate to the cringe worthy exchanges between co-workers, the besotted and geeky James and the introverted workaholic Lara. Harsh judgements are inevitable when it comes to the self-destructive relationship between ambitious but misdirected Evie, and the easily influenced realist Simon.

Kat, a foul-mouthed, self-confessed philanderer, played expertly by Lily Drake, with just the right amount of dynamic to portray this confident yet deeply vulnerable girl, is contrasted brilliantly with the almost poetic and often profound speech of Wayne, whose booze-fuelled musings get across some harsh realities about alcoholism. Sophie, on the other hand, although a smaller part, melts the tragedies of each character together as she reluctantly plays out the pains and obsessions of daily life. What was striking about Keep it Casual, is its easy parallelism with reality, allowing the audience not only to identify with characters, empathise with them, and interpret the significance of actions in their own way, whilst also acting as a stimulus for self-evaluation.

The casting and characterisation of these tortured beings was spot on. Written and directed by Rachel Nwokoro, the script was fluid and transitions easy to follow whilst never feeling safe. The balance of suspense and comic relief was conveyed by a naturalistic speech. In the face of such close proximity to the action, it was to the credit of the cast, that they were not phased by this at all.

The set was sparse but imaginative. Its minimalist appearance, simple but effective barriers between scenes such as a dividing wall, a bar and a bedroom, are just enough  to divide the characters without distracting from the overall patchwork of the characters’ minds. The uncomplicated use of lighting and absence of music, except in one scene, served to leave the stage uncluttered, save for the ramshackle melee of the characters’ thoughts.

Performed once before, this revision of Keep it Casual offers a tantalising and judgmental view of the lives of a variety of characters, brought together by tortured hearts and self-doubt. It far surpasses the predictability of a student play.  

Surini Ranawake



27 October 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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