PQA productions

Aug 28 2018 | By More

★★★★☆   Persephone

★★☆☆☆ The School Film

★★★☆☆     Blackout

PQA Venues@Riddle’s Court (Venue 277): Fri 3 – Tues 7 Aug 2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

The establishment of a venue by the Pauline Quirke Academy means that – among the many other shows staged there – there is a showcase for the local youngsters attending the PQA.

The thrust of their three productions is obviously largely to showcase the talents of the young performers, and any faults in them can largely be explained by the desire to give them exposure.

Riddles Court

Riddles Court

The staging of Davey Anderson’s Blackout, inspired by a true story about a Glasgow teenager drawn into violent crime, exemplifies this. If it is a little static, and ultimately somewhat worthy, this can easily be excused. Kirsty Rennie’s direction of the PM Red Group benefits from a strong central performance and a beautifully drilled chorus, and takes into account that a typically boxy Fringe venue does not always afford perfect sightlines.

This is something that hampers The School Film by Patrick Marber, featuring the AM Red Group. The story of a group of pupils watching David Lean’s version of Great Expectations, it is ideal on one level for such a production, featuring a large number of speaking parts.

However, not only does it require some knowledge of Lean’s film in order to make full sense, the play does have the problem of featuring a cast simply sitting down watching a film. This is not inherently dramatic, and also involves problems of visibility. Inexperienced actors often find their voices getting quieter when sitting down, and this does happen here.

Director Leonna McGilligan seeks to get round these drawbacks by having the cast constantly swap places, which adds movement but means that the various characters – the keen student, the constantly hungry student, the ‘woke’ student – are difficult to establish. The cast are all convincing but it never becomes coherent.


McGilligan is much more successful with Persephone, featuring the AM and PM Blue group. This has the youngest cast but is the most successful production.

On one level, this is hardly surprising, as Julia Donaldson’s ability to pitch a story to a young market can be relied upon. This has enough of the original Greek myths, with enough of the hard edges softened, for it to be effective. It also provides opportunities not only for an enjoyable chorus but also for some clearly defined and sparky individual roles.

There is a genuine sense of fun about this, and it fairly flies by. As in the other productions, the performers are not necessarily stereotypical ‘stage’ youngsters, and the experience they get from such productions is invaluable.

There are lessons to be learned in terms of staging here – not least that, even if it is desirable to have an open window in a heatwave, the noise of an Old Town Fringe from outside outweighs the positives, particularly if there already audibility problems. Nevertheless, these are worthwhile productions on several levels.

PQA Venues@Riddle’s Court (Venue 277), Riddle’s Court, High St, EH1 2PG

Persephone: Running time 30 minutes (no interval)
Wednesday 1 – Monday 6 August 2018 2018, daily at 12.00 noon.
The school Film: Running time 30 minutes (no interval)
Friday 3 – Tuesday 7 August 2018 2018, daily at 2.00 pm.
Blackout: Running time 25 minutes (no interval)
Friday 3 – Tuesday 7 August 2018 2018, daily at 1.00 pm.
Runs ended
PQA Venues website: http://pqavenues.co.uk/


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