A Perfect Stroke – Review

Apr 12 2014 | By More

★★★★★     Perfectly stroked

Traverse Theatre: Tue 8 – Sat 12 April 2014
Review by Thom Dibdin

Tense and nervous drama of the kind that just won’t relax comes to the Traverse this week in the second instalment of the Spring 2014 season of lunchtime theatre A Play, A Pie and A Pint.

Writer Johnny McKnight, who has six seasons of successful pantomime at the macrobert in Stirling under his belt, is best known for his comedy – and this certainly sets out as such.

Anita Vettesse, Dani Heron and Scott Reid. Photo © Oran Mor

Anita Vettesse, Dani Heron and Scott Reid. Photo © Oran Mor

But he also knows how to write the sort of drama that will have you squirming in your seat at the truth and suspense of it all. Which is exactly where he has gone with this brilliant piece of lunchtime theatre.

It’s a simple set-up: Ms Stone (Anita Vettesse), a drama teacher at a secondary school, and budding drama student Thomas (Scott Reid) have stayed behind after school on a Friday so she can help coach him for an audition the following Monday. Meanwhile his girlfriend Carly (Dani Heron) is waiting.

Director Amanda Gaughan brings out a trio of pitch-perfect performances from her cast.

Vettesse is quite the switched on young teacher: enthusiastic, bright-eyed and knackered. The kind who sees the best in her pupils when the other teachers have given up on them. Yet you can see her sweeping into the staff room full of her own earnestness and name-dropping her own dramatic achievements.

Reid’s Thomas is perhaps the best drawn of the trio. He looks the part in skinny jeans and a permanent air of misunderstood innocence. He blotches with embarrassment while having the cocky arrogance of the young who have not yet learned how to be cowed.

full and knowing

As for Heron’s Carly, her arrogance is full and knowing. A girl who, having reached physical maturity, knows exactly how much power that gives her and the ways of wielding it over those around her. And for those over who such power has no hold, she has the blank look of teenage contempt.

The reading of Thomas’s audition piece forms much of the development of the plot; the interplay between teacher and pupil as he discovers its true meaning and begins to be able to present it as a performance.

Rarely can the opening soliloquy in the Act 2, scene 2 balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet: “But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?” have had so many different meanings and subtexts in one fifty minute episode as it does here.

Yet the joy of the production is the growing realisation that it is all performance and subtext. As the relationships between the three characters develops and changes, the balance of power swings back and forth.

It is precarious stuff in which McKnight makes you believe one thing, shows you another and delivers a third – while leaving you squirming on your seat as a whole host of other possibilities occur to you.

Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint lunchtime theatre has a reputation for throwing up gems. This is certainly one of them.

Running time 50 mins.
Run ends Saturday 12 April
Daily 1pm (also 7pm Fri)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street EH1 2ED
Tickets from the Traverse website on: www.traverse.co.uk


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