This week at the New Theatre is Excess, the only student written play of the year, and a triumphant authorial and directorial debut for Cesar Teixeira.
Conceptually ambitious, Excess follows three separate stories and seven separate lives as they intersect one night at a tango bar – I hesitate to detail the plot any more than I have to, as it was refreshing to arrive at the theatre with absolutely no preconceptions and no idea what to expect. However, the play does navigate a thematic minefield of – deep breath – sexuality, hedonism, prostitution, drug abuse, sexual abuse, and date rape, against the uncomfortably accurate backdrop of 21st century repression.
Unsurprisingly, watching Excess was emotionally exhausting, which pays tribute to the skill of the cast in portraying such serious themes without being tempted into caricature. However, the sheer volume of issues being dealt with in the play meant that at times their development felt a little sweeping, and the associated characterisation too reliant upon long and intense periods of dialogue. However, this discordance was only noticeable given the strength of the otherwise convincing and entertaining naturalistic dialogue.
Particular praise must be given Tommo Fowler’s performance as Mark, the closeted young professional whose idiosyncratic pauses and hesitations allowed the potential humour of Teixara’s dialogue to be fully realised. Equally impressive, though perhaps underused, was Bryony Blackler; saved for the end of the play the most poignant story followed the bartender’s realisation that she had been raped. Her ongoing anonymity (even the programme doesn’t give her a name) and constant presence in the previous scenes, implicates the audience in the neglect leading up to her attack, all of which is masterfully emoted by Blackler.
Movement between characters, plot lines and time frames – which could have easily been tricky to follow – was enabled by an inspired set design and very accomplished lighting effects. The split stage not only allowed for easy transference from scene to scene, but the consistent bedroom/bar set up acted as an anchor point of reference in the fast moving action.
Overall, Excess should be commended for its courageousness in confronting some of the biggest mores of today’s society with honesty and compassion, and marks as such the end of another brilliant season at the New Theatre.
And if you need more convincing, there is an almost gratuitous amount of semi-nudity.