Orphans @ The New Theatre

Promising to be both “disturbing and darkly comic” according to the New Theatre website, I was unsure of what to expect from their production of Orphans. Whilst it certainly delivered on both accounts, for me, the play failed to achieve any significant emotional connection. “It should be called the hearing aid play,” my friend said to me as we left the New Theatre last night, “because everyone shouts and has to repeat everything 5 times”. The script is razor sharp, and the dialogue cuts a relentless staccato that, whilst effective in creating a hugely tense atmosphere, becomes a little grating after a while. However, Orphans is intended to be a challenging play; its subject matter deals with knife crime, racism, gang culture and the role of family in the 21st Century, so it was never going to be a jolly night out at the theatre.

The play opens with a couple, Helen and Danny, enjoying a quiet meal together, when Helen’s brother Liam strolls through the front door, covered in blood. He claims to have seen a “lad” collapsed in the street after being attacked, which upsets Liam so much, he hugs him. Throughout the evening, as Liam’s story becomes more and more vague, we witness the extent to which family loyalties and morality can be stretched, through Helen’s fierce protection of her brother, and Danny’s middle class view of right and wrong.

Douggie McMeekin lifts the production with his fantastic portrayal of Liam, striking the right balance between naiveté and cruelty, creating a lovable yet dangerous psychopath. However, it was only McMeekin’s comic timing and vulnerability that managed to create any resonance with me. The rest of the cast cannot be faulted for their acting skill, in particular Meg Salter as Helen adds a wonderfully malicious Lady Macbeth aspect to her relationship with her husband. Yet the whole play seemed to lack direction and focus, and whilst providing a chilling insight into the depravity of modern society, fails to deliver real entertainment.

Kathryn Scott

ArtsArts Reviews
44 Comments on this post.
  • Cesar Teixeira
    28 October 2010 at 22:14
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    I’m never one to begrudge an opinion. On the contrary. I value Impact and it’s reviews as much as I value the New Theatre, I think they benefit each other, but only when they work to be mutually helpful; something the New Theatre’s membership has not necessarily always done. It’s members are known to occaisionally get a little irate over the contents of reviews (I shoud know, I’ve been on the recieving end). However, when a review like this goes up, Impact fails to uphold it’s end.

    While this show might not be to everyone’s taste, it is without a doubt one of the best shows to grace the NT stage in recent years. The reviewer’s lack of appreciation for the intracacies of the set and lighting leave me wondering why they are reviewing at all. And not mentioning one cast member it’s just tactless and unnecessary.

    Orphans is a masterful show of talent, both for its production team, and its actors. Liz has succeeded in making a very complicate script enjoyable and relatable, and Meg, James and Douggie are all surprising and understated in their roles. The two greatest compliments any actor can recieve.

    No, it’s not entertaining in the way sitting on the couch for an episode of the Inbetweeners would be. It provokes dialogue, it speaks to the very core of us.

  • Tom W
    28 October 2010 at 23:03
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    In response to this review have to say that I am shocked that it was considered reasonable to publish a review in its present state. As an audience member last night I respect the reviewer is entitled to her differing opinion. However, not to mention the incredibly detailed set, the lighting and sound design, or most ridiculously of all, the presence of the third actor onstage, it appears to me to only be half a review. I understand that Impact has changed its review policy in only allowing a single review of a show, however, what has been published does not constitute, in my opinion, a complete review. In light of this a suggest that the present review be expanded to include some of the elements I mentioned, or to have a second review published which further elaborates on the aforementioned elements. I can only hope that this will not be representative of Impact’s approach to reviewing shows this semester, as it does not set a good precedent.

  • Amy Dickinson
    28 October 2010 at 23:10
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    With respect, this review is a little contradictory.

    If the script is razor sharp, how can you have a problem with the way lines are repeated – which is part of the script – and the fact that the play ‘lacked direction’.

    Also if you found the play both darkly comic and disturbing, and praise Meg for her portrayal of Helen’s relationship with her brother it must have made an emotional connection.

    I just don’t really understand what your getting at, was the problem with the story or the performance?

  • Michael de V
    29 October 2010 at 09:11
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    Hi all,

    As Arts & Culture editor, it was my decision to publish this article as it stood.

    What I read, was a well-written and refreshingly genuine piece of literature, which, unlike many reviews, actually justified her thoughts and opinions. In many ways, this has made Kathryn a more able reviewer than a fair few we have had in the past few years. I have, indeed, not published articles in the past when they have seemed overly harsh and ungrounded, but instead requested fair justification. Kathryn gave credit where credit was due, and whilst I edit grammar to the best of my abilities, I refuse to edit opinions.

    In relation to the ‘gaps’ in the article, I made the decision to get the article online Thursday afternoon, a few hours before the show, as this is what I shall strive to do every week. I made this decision, and stand by it. Ultimately, I think that the article was suitable for publication and am pleased it will lead to further discussion.

    Clearly some of you disagree with this decision, having enjoyed certain aspects of the production that Kathryn did not shed light on. However, please feel free to now comment on such aspects and add to the review with your own opinions, as you have been able to since before 5pm on the Thursday. I have much respect for the ability to comment and for the comments themselves on this website, and this forum was open for discussion three hours before the curtains openend for the second performance.

    But as I said, please do add to this review with your own perspectives of the performances, as one audience member’s opinion is as valuable and as legitimate as another’s.

  • Matt Wilks
    29 October 2010 at 11:10
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    Kathryn Scott were you watching the same PLAY as I was?

    Until the final scene I disagree that ‘everyone shouts’, in fact the controlled, naturalistic performances of ALL the actors were a stand out element of this production that the director had obviously been at pains to create. This production was subtly nuanced and intricately detailed, from the choice of DVDs on the shelves, right down to the flecks of rain on Danny’s jacket when he returns from his midnight wanderings. Every element was delivered with perfect timing; the gunshot slamming of the door and the unexpected entrance of a “minor” character being most memorable. Also refreshing was the fact that the three actors were unafraid of ‘the pause’ and could retain stage presence even when saying nothing at all.

    Failed to deliver real entertainment? I saw audience members in tears and I heard the buzz of conversation centred around the play as I left and it’s had such a profound effect on me that I’ve taken the time to sit and disagree totally with your incomplete and shoddy review. I dread to think what you would call real entertainment.

  • Adam Dawes
    29 October 2010 at 13:09
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    As one of the Nights Editors, part of our role is to commission and publish articles from contributors that are informed, interesting and crucially, critical. It seems that what we have here is a first time contributor who has seen a play, has an understanding of it, and has applied a technical and emotional criteria in order to generate a critical perspective.

    If someone submitted an article under the Nights re-mit that was as informed as balanced as this, I would be more than happy to publish it. Reading through it, it is a fair account, and it would not dissuade me from seeing the play – I appreciate Kathryn’s opinion, and found it an enjoyable article to read.

    If anything, it makes me want to see Orphans, a play I was not aware of, in order to gain my own understanding of it.

  • Vanessa A. E. Brown
    29 October 2010 at 13:24
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    I personally haven’t seen the play. However, I feel the key issue here is more to do with differences of opinion and conflicts of interest than anything else. Had Kathryn not mentioned staging, lighting and the other character but said that she “loved” the play I’m not sure people would still be complaining. So on that note, I agree with Michael: Use the the comments to add your own opinion and to agree or disagree, rather than claiming that the review is not complete just because you take a different view of the play. Freedom of speech and debate is what the Impact website is for! Alternatively, write and submit your own Impact reviews for future plays if you feel it hasn’t been “done right”. Impact is always looking for new contributors.

  • Voice Of Reason
    29 October 2010 at 14:08
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    It’s the same old New Theatre. You can’t take any criticism of your plays, I wonder how many of the naysayers on this feed are actually involved with the play? – hardly representative opinion on what is clearly a considered review.

    It seems to me that NT are so up themselves that they believe they are immune to reviews with a negative slant. That’s quite a saddening position to be in, as self-confessed thespians you should be able to appreciate that negative reviews are necessary from time to time. Cesar, respectfully, I’m going to have to disagree. Who are you to judge the opinion of the Author? Who are you, indeed, to judge whether Impact should have published the article or not? In fact, why don’t you just be on your way.

    In essence, nobody apart from New Theatre groupies actually could give a flying donkey f**k about your little plays in your run-down shack.

    Good Day.

  • Clive H.
    29 October 2010 at 14:16
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    Having seen the play myself I am inclined to agree with Kathryn’s comments. Since this is a review, surely it is about someone’s opinion of the show. Those who were involved in the play would obviously comment that it is a great play since they have put hours and hours of work in it. To an outsider however I felt that there were obviously flaws; I was generally impressed with the play however agree with Kathryn’s assertions. I feel it is unjust to attack the review in such a manner since it is someone’s opinion and, whilst not everyone might agree with it, it is refreshing to see a review which is this frank. After all, a critic who is solely positive can’t be considered a critic!

  • Nate Scott
    29 October 2010 at 14:49
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    I agree with Mr. Dawes.

  • Gabby
    29 October 2010 at 15:47
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    Hi everyone,

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Impact to only publish the one review of this play. You wouldn’t expect a national newspaper to send a second reviewer because a theatre-goer’s opinion differs to that of the original writer; that’s not how a review works. We’ve sent a reviewer, she’s given her opinion, and whilst everyone is of course entitled to respond via this website, we’re not going to review it again because some don’t agree with her verdict.

    Kathryn has commented on what she believed to be the salient elements of the production; a review doesn’t have to comprehensively cover every aspect of the play. The article actually makes several positive comments about different parts of the production, but if Kathryn didn’t enjoy it overall, then she’s allowed to say so!

    Amy – I think some of the contradictions you’ve mentioned are worth discussing. I’m no theatre afficionado, but I think it’s wholly possible that a play could have sharp dialogue but lack direction overall in terms of plot. Equally, the actual sentences said and the sentiment behind them might be sharp, but one might find repetition of those lines gratuitous. Also, Kathryn never states that she found the play ‘disturbing and darkly comic’, rather that New Theatre literature promises the play to be both.

    I don’t want to discourage anyone from voicing their opinions here – everyone is as entitled to their view as Kathryn is. But I would suggest we don’t let comments get personal. Not to immediately break my own rule, but Matt Wilkes and especially ‘Voice of Reason’… I’m looking at you!

  • Stu Hardy
    29 October 2010 at 16:00
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    As a member of both New Theatre and Impact, I have seen a lot of the plays they have performed and read a lot of reviews that have been written about them. Now, I am NOT saying that this is the greatest review ever written, nor am I saying that it is the worst. It gives Ms Scott’s opinion of the play as a whole in 300 words – which, for someone who may not be part of the New Theatre, does not need to concern set or lighting or techincal details, or every cast members. She admits there were parts she enjoyed, yet is able to counter with criticism that the actos should then take as constructive in order to improve their future performaces.

    Likewise, I do NOT consider ‘Orphans’ to be the greatest or most innovative performance at the New Theatre, nor is it the worst. The main reason for this is that almost EVER play at the New Theatre that is reviewed is considered ‘the greatest play performed’, which is simply false. Now I know the actors starring in it (Meg, Douggie and James) and while I personally consider them some of the best within the New Theatre community, they are not the greatest I’ve ever seen.

    The reviews of past have been based on opinions of other writers – some of which are active members of the New Theatre, and therefore have their strong opinions about the actors, crew, producers and directors as also friends. Now, someone has come along with an opinion that differs from thew view of previous ones. If you can easily praise a friend as an actor, knowing more than someone who does not know them as a friend, then it is a strongly biased opinion. How can you then claim someone else’s review is unfair because they have a different bias?

    Ms Scott, I admit that your writing does need improvement, but do not feel as though that means you need to reflect public opinion. This review is needed as a reminder that not everyone has the same viewpoint on what is nessecary or important – something the New Theatre needs to understand with reviews from Impact.

    • Unattached member
      29 October 2010 at 22:17
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      Apparently this reviewer thinks “the play lacked any significant emotional connection” (a strong claim for ANY reviewer to make – yet alone an unfounded one), yet she cannot fault anything about the production itself – its “razorsharp” script and its three fantastic central performances. Now I’m all for a good critique, but come on guys, it’s pretty much rule number 1 for any reviewer to back up their opinions. She then goes on to say “it lacked focus and direction” but again fails to provide any example of this in the play. It is for this reason I simply cannot take this review seriously.

      Also, “failed to achieve any resonance with me”… how many of these generalised unsupported claims do we have to put up with? The only focus and direction this reviewer has is when talking about what worked well with the play, which in itself speaks volumes about the high quality of this production. Bad review.

      PS I have not even seen the show, nor am I attached to the theatre in any way, so am merely going by what I have read above.

  • Cesar Teixeira
    29 October 2010 at 16:19
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    It all comes down to what the reviewer thinks her review should do. Kathryn hasn’t voiced her opinion on this, but as I see it, negativity for negativities sake is never a good thing.

    I know how difficult it is to write an unbiased reviews. I don’t claim that mine are free of bias, but I do think that the vast majority of those who are truely interested in theatre will be in some way involved in the New Theatre, making a well informed review without any connections to the New Theatre a difficult thing to come by. Personally,I would rather have a degree of bias but someone who appreciates the complexities of theatre. After all, many of the greatest and most respected critics out there are well versed in the medium they critique. And for those who ask who am I? I have directed in the New Theatre, have the great pleasure of knowing many of it’s talented members, and have reviewed several of their shows for impact (if you care to look them up, you will see that while not all were well recieved, I have always tried to be positive about my criticisms).

    Most importantly I agree with Gabby. Personal attacks are petty. We should all be free to disagree with each others opinions, without being pounced upon.

  • Muggie McDeekin
    29 October 2010 at 16:32
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    OMG Stu, I can’t believe you didnt say Douggie was one of the best. He’s in character 24/7, he hasnt let Liam go for the last month.

  • Stephanie Soh
    29 October 2010 at 17:19
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    So much theatrical experience is difficult to articulate – why a play does or doesn’t resonate with an audience member is due to a multiplicity of factors – such as physicality, dialogue, tech, context, direction, acting, subject matter, etc – that it is hard to pin down exactly what went right or wrong.

    This, of course, is the theatre critic’s task and we know that it is not an easy one. People may argue about whether or not a critic has achieved this, but the critical heart of any review is the drive to offer an opinion which is sincere and unbiased, and this I believe Kathryn to have done. It is not an all-encompassing review, but if it is truthful to the opinions of the reviewer then this is precisely where it gains its value.


  • One Solo Artist
    29 October 2010 at 18:11
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    Oh Voice of Reason you are an astute being. Who the flip do New Theatre think they are, attacking a review which is so honest and unpretentious?

    Every single review that has come before seems to have been written by one of the pions of this innately arrogant institution. And with exception to the senior staff of Impact everyone who has commented on this page seems to be from New Theatre, which proves the Voice of Reason’s point; who really gives one?

    The only comment that I do not take offence with his Matt Wilks’s. He has voiced an honest opinion in contrast to that of Kathyrn’s allowing what should been a healthy debate to ensue.

    But no, what we have ended up with is a gratuitous attack of a solid review. The Impact team are right to have put this review up and should not have felt goaded into responding to a load of dippy thesps who wouldn’t know good journalism if it bit them their self-rightious……

    Sorry I let my emotions get the better of me there, anyway, to end on an opinion.

    Kathryn, I agree with what you have said in your, well structured, brief and unaffected review.

  • Tom
    29 October 2010 at 18:32
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    Kathryn, great article- very incisive and look forward to reading some more in the future!

  • Tom W
    30 October 2010 at 00:19
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    In relation to the maelstrom of comments that my earlier post has spawned I have to say that I am shocked with the direction that the thread has taken. I will not comment further on the content of the article itself as I believe that my views upon it are present and clear. However, the personal attacks on the New Theatre as an SRS and its members as well appear to be completely unnecessary in this context. As regards the posts of The Voice of Reason and One Solo Artist, I cannot say that I am particularly surprised that people have this view of the New Theatre, as any theatre is bound to produce shows that are not to everyone’s taste. In spite of this the New Theatre committee makes every effort at the start of the season to produce a programme of shows that will appeal to the largest section of the student audience possible. I am disappointed that people do however shrug off the New Theatre as a group of “self-righteous”,”dippy thesps” who put on “little plays in [a] run down shack”. We in the New Theatre are obviously very proud of the shows we produce, on the whole, as we recognise that they are of variable quality. As a New Theatre member what personally offends me is that The Voice of Reason and One Solo Artist choose to make these comments whilst cowardly hiding behind what are frankly pretentious monikers. I, and I feel the majority of the members of the New Theatre, would be much more inclined to engage in a dialogue with these individuals if they had the confidence in what they write by attaching their names to their posts.


    Tom Walsh

  • Nick Hughes
    30 October 2010 at 00:35
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    I believe everyone is missing the point here. No one is actually debating the opinion of the reviewer, as seems to be claimed by many ‘defending’ said ‘review’.

    The issue here has nothing to do with personal opinions. If the reviewer had said that she thoroughly enjoyed the play, yet still failed to comment on many vital aspects of the production, then the debate would still have been apparent. My personal opinion is also irrelevant. As an individual no more involved in the production than an audience member, I have my own opinion of the performance, one which happens to differ from the reviewer. The main issue here is not whether the reviewer enjoyed the performance or not, but the incompleteness of said review.

    The reviewer fails to mention a third of the cast (excluding the child, half therefore if one includes him). How can one mention two of the actors and congratulate them, and yet refer to James Lewis merely as the ‘other members of the cast’? Surely his performance is integral to production as a whole? Whether the reviewer or not enjoyed his performance is again not the issue, the mere fact that she neglected/forgot to mention such a key part of the production is.

    Similarly, when one goes to a performance at the theatre, one of the first thing one notices is the set. Did the reviewer enjoy the set? Did she dislike it? Did it add to the production or detract? Or was it merely negligible? The scrupulous attention to detail regards to the set, for example, the Bob the Builder DvD and the children’s shoes, to this individual, showed the vision of those involved, and made the entire production more emotionally engaging and real.

    What did the reviewer think of the technical side of things? Did the lights contribute to the enjoyment of the evening? Did it help to make the performance more believable? Or was it a distraction? Or did the writer not even notice the effect of it? Surely she would have noticed that there were lights on?

    The incompleteness of the review is only one part of why people are not ‘overjoyed’ with the quality of the review. If one looks back over the comments above, one will see that the only people mentioning the reviewer’s opinion are the editors from Impact magazine, and those using pseudonyms rather than real names to attack the New Theatre.

    How can one ‘lift the production with his fantastic portrayal of Liam’ without receiving adequate direction? How can the reviewer enjoy the ‘razor sharp script’ and yet complain of repetition of lines? These lines were repeated in the script. It is the way the play it is written. It was not a directorial choice to simply repeat certain lines over and over. It is these, and several other contradictions, which make this individual feel as though the review is lacking in both content and quality.

    I would like next to address One Solo Artist and the ‘Voice of Reason’. I find it strange how two individuals (whether they are hiding behind pseudonyms or not) both attack the New Theatre for apparently being ‘self-righteous’ and ‘arrogant’ whilst at the same time adding nothing constructive to the debate, merely throwing childish insults around, as well as being ‘self righteous’ and ‘arrogant’. Again, you are completely entitled to your opinions, however, you both seem to be suffering from the same affliction as the reviewer, that of blatant contradiction.

    I would like to point at this stage, I am not expecting everyone reviewing productions at the New Theatre to be theatre experts, however, surely knowledge of how a theatre works and how a production is shaped is necessary to appreciate a performance?

    But then again, that is just my own opinion.

  • Bora Hunja
    30 October 2010 at 00:38
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    hello! if you’ve seen the show, you’ve obviously seen my name in the program twice and i don’t want to hide this fact. i completely agree that kathryn is allowed to have her own opinion. i agree with amy though, because opinions should be justified and not self-contradictory. i have spent the last hour with nine friends who are not involved in the play in any way but all went to see the show tonight. their problem wasn’t with the article so much as it was with the personal attacks to the theatre. as a student who spends quite a lot of time in the theatre, i am personally offended when people take this view. i got involved in the theatre in my second year at uni and i have never known more dedicated, hard working people in my entire life. we do this because we love it and just because some people may not enjoy the product or don’t try to get involved, this doesn’t mean that anyone is allowed to attack it head-on. i say head-on, what i really mean is by using a pseudonym. also, if you read previous reviews about shows in the theatre, they are critical and create debate which is genuinely appreciated by those both involved and not involved.

    now, about the article. liz, the director, completely understood beforehand that some people wouldn’t like the play and therefore did not get offended in any way when this article was published. i also found no problems with the opinion held by this reviewer. my main problem was that so many important aspects of the production were just ignored. for example there was only ONE OTHER ACTOR ONSTAGE. not including the child. even if mr lewis gave a completely shoddy performance (which he most certainly did not), not mention him is a complete oversight. it seems that his lack of dialogue has made him seem less important, when it was an incredibly nuanced. reacting to other people speaking is a very difficult skill that is rarely seen in drama, made especially hard when there are only two other people onstage. also lighting and set, no matter how it may seem to some, are integral to a production, this one in particular. if the set and lighting are done badly, that’s usually the thing that people pick up on first because they set the entire mood. if the lighting and set, for example, implied that the play were taking part in the 15th century during a solar eclipse, the play would absolutely not make any sense. the fact that the play was written in a way to be natural and life-like means that the set and lighting also had to be so. some representatives from the national student drama festival came to see the show last night (thursday) and said that the set was one of the best student-created sets they have ever seen. they see approximately 150 shows a year.

    my basic point is, it is a shame for james, matt and phil (the designers) and liz that some things were missing here. whether or not this the fault of the reviewer or the editors is not up to me, i just i hope that next week’s review (whether critical or complimentary) is of a higher standard. either do a whole thing or nothing, not half a thing.

  • Liz Rose
    30 October 2010 at 00:46
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    I am so happy that this review has sparked such discussion, because never before have i seen a play that invoked such emotion.
    I do however disagree with the idea that only one review should be posted. this does not give a well rounded opinion of the shows. Luckily, enough people have seen and appreciated the show to stick up for it. if people haven’t seen it, i strongly encourage you to do so.
    congratulations to Liz and the whole team. this is a show you should be incredibly proud of.

  • Emily Davenport
    30 October 2010 at 00:49
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    This isn’t a personal attack on Kathryn i have no problem with her personal view as an opinion is an opinion but the fact that she has decided to “forget” several KEY aspects that any decent published review, weather it was from a new theatre member or not would include. Kathryn seems to have missed the point entirely when writing a review, yes it has created debate and given an opinion but the fact that she has so ignorantly forgotten that one fantastic actor even existed on stage, is something that is shocking and purely offensive to James Lewis who has obviously given so much time and effort to perfect such a fantastic performance to then be snubbed by an obviously in adequate reviewer by being referred to as “the rest of the cast”. I doubt this was a clever grammatical ploy on Kathryn’s part as she doesn’t seem to enjoy those at all.

    As someone who holds the construction of set and tech close to my heart the fact that Kathryn hasn’t even included these, is so ignorant it’s unbelievable. An audience member goes to the theatre for the whole experience which includes these two highly important factors the fact that Kathryn has decided to miss these out entirely shows her complete inexperience not only to theatre but to constructing an adequate theatre review.

    As a “theatre clique” member who has been on stage, teched shows and who has designed a set myself i do not appreciate kiss arse reviews at all, i would much rather have someone give a fair balanced and justified reasoned opinion as to why they do or do not like what they have seen, however Kathryn fails to do this on several accounts.

    As far as the haters on this post “Voice Of Reason” and “One Solo Artist” you obviously are interested enough in the new theatre to read the reviews take the time to construct a ridiculously pompous and pathetic response in which you use abusive language and disregard the hard work that we at the new theatre do on a daily basis we are a massive community that focuses on theatre not architecture so why is it necessary for you to focus on our “shabby” location “Voice Of Reason” if it bothers you that much then I advise you to take that up with the university of Nottingham, and instead concentrate on educating yourself and you “One Solo Artist” on the beauty of the plays of the New Theatre and remove the two sticks that have become obviously quite highly stuck up your rear ends.

    Yours sincerely
    Emily Davenport

  • Harry
    30 October 2010 at 01:56
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    Lighten up you bunch of tossers. While perhaps a slightly casuistic argument, I applaud Scott’s nerve to voice her honest opinion, and the editor’s decision to publish the article. Provoking much debate, it has highlighted the over-protective and pretentious attitude that the New Theatre conveys. The arrogance tickles me; and I like being tickled. Long may it continue!

  • Steph
    30 October 2010 at 02:24
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    As an ex-member of Impact and an audience member of the New Theatre, I am horrified at this thread. I personally thought the play was fantastic and I would encourage you all to go see it. You can then make your own informed opinions and thus make this entire thread and all its unpleasant words fairly irrelevant.
    I am not going to criticise Kathryn’s review as such, I would just like to highlight to her that in future reviews it might be more professional to make some form of comment (positive or negative) on all actors that are involved in the production, particularly as this has just three.

  • Dan Downes
    30 October 2010 at 03:22
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    To: Voice of Reason and One Solo Artist,

    I would like to open with my admiration of how you support bold and biting, well-reasoned critique and then hide behind pseudonyms and use phrases such as ‘dippy thesps’. As one of said ‘dippy thesps’ I can only thank you for educating me using such fine and well-worded responses to the ways and uses of journalism. As you know, drama in general carries no concern for the use of language, and I find it impressive how you suggest that one group can be labelled with certain characteristics without diversity or individual thought. In particular I like your emotional and impulsive responses to criticism of an artical (the basis of your hurt-feelings being that the New Theatre cannot take criticisms). So to both of you, very, very well done for adding such beautiful and well-thought insight into the discussion. I can only hope that you will grace us with further intelligent imput over the coming months.

    Of course, I am mocking you. So I will conclude that part of my commentary with your ever so sincere closing statement. Good day to you both.

    Now, on to the review. I am a part of the New Theatre, but I am yet to see the play. Of course it is natural that some parts of the play were not reviewed at all, that being the set etc, as there is limited space and also people bring to their review different focusses and talents that wont necessarily be universal critique of the whole production. Inconsistancy was an issue, especially in stating that there was no emotional connection but highly praising 66% of the actors was somewhat confusing.

    The important thing here though is that the New Theatre and Impact are two entities where people are clearly very passionate but also clearly in the process of learning their trade. I do not think that it is fair for a reviewer to put themselves on the line and then have their review dismissed for the same reason that the review is being dismissed for, i.e. difference in taste and/or passionate students not having polished and ubiquitous knowledge of their area of interest being young and learning. I hope that you review again, and get the opportunity to learn more about reviews and feel more confident with your reviews in order to do so. If people simply dismissed my ability to direct then I would not be able to learn and improve, and I would find that a crying shame.

    I do not find it surprising that two groups of people passionate about what they do find it hard to understand each other’s point of view, ironically enough as they are both defending themselves for the same reason. The thing that I find most troubling about this is the imbeciles that think chipping in with cretinous comments helps the situation. I actually read over those comments twice, unable to fathom the level of childish glee that those two people clearly had in sitting at home at their computers, probably dribbling onto their keyboard as they became more immersed in their biggoted and sweeping judgements. Let us please discuss the review and the plays sensibly and with the due amount of respect to those that put the productions together and those that put themselves out to write the review in the first place.

    And if you do not care about the New Theatre, as once again you so boldly (anonomously) claimed, then kindly keep your egotistical insights to yourselves and use your self-righteous, bloated opinions of yourselves as a mastabatory aid, as I imagine is already your custom.

  • Tommo Fowler
    30 October 2010 at 03:23
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    So here we are, yet again, ignoring the play and instead reviewing the reviews – though I suppose it is always useful to add alternate insights. Here, then, is my two cents:

    I completely disagree with Ms Scott, but, as has been noted, she is perfectly entitled to her opinion. I equally think that a review made up of 40% synopsis is rather a waste of time – it might as well have been pasted from Wikipedia by someone who has never seen the play, and should not make up such a large proportion.

    Furthermore, it is certainly deplorable that aspects such as the fine set (exquisite in detail, and the only one I can remember to have bothered with transparent inlays for the window frames – something which gave an increased authenticity) and simple but effective lighting (the disconcertingly pulsating street lamp shining through the window as an ever-present reminder of the outside world which instils such terror in Helen and Danny) were omitted. But we should not forget that most people coming to the New Theatre do not do so to be wowed by set or lighting. Even if such things produce a positive effect upon the audience once inside the theatre, Stu is absolutely right that they not are often the primary motivation behind taking a trip down Cherry Tree Hill.

    But Liz and her cast/crew can, I’m sure, deal with criticism (and recognise where it’s unwarranted). The comments it has generated, however, are another matter. Tom’s last post (surely worthy of The Times) is quite correct to condemn the vicious generalisations about New Theatre members, so I won’t waste time doing it again, and the issues I had with Amy’s post have been ably dealt with by Gabby.

    But there are nonetheless a couple of things left to address, and I’m afraid all to one person:

    Firstly, you seem to suggest that NT and Impact have a necessary reciprocity wherein the former stages a play and the latter writes about how good it is. Impact is not duty-bound to publish glowing reviews of productions (indeed has been criticised for facile positivity in the past), nor to take the feelings of those involved into consideration. The idea of it “fail[ing] to uphold it’s end” is, therefore, surely a non sequitur.

    Secondly, if Ms Scott did not find James’ performance worthy of note, on what grounds should she be compelled to include him in her review? You may disagree, but I think it is better she did not mention him at all than to have appended a cursory ‘James Lewis’ performance was fine.’ That, surely, would be “tactless and unnecessary”. She has certainly done him a disservice, with his monologue (describing the violence discovered and enacted in Ian’s shed) being particularly worthy of note, but clearly she was not as moved by it as I. It is very admirable that you try to find good in every production you have reviewed, but just as there is no sense in “negativity for negativities sake”, there is nothing to be gained from the reviewer half-heartedly listing positives that they do not feel to be justified (not to mention that you, of course, count many in theatre among your friends, and would not risk the offence we saw caused by last year’s review of ‘The Winterling’).

    Finally, it is not the case that Impact’s reviews should necessarily be written by “someone who appreciates the complexities of theatre”. One might equally argue that those given the privilege of directing a play at the New Theatre should have some experience: perhaps the Committee should only accept proposals from those who have directed before; perhaps, at a push, they might give a chance to someone who has at least acted even if they have never moved beyond the footlights. As you know from your own experiences, this is not the case. New Theatre and Impact are Student Run Services. Students, by definition, are still learning. Neither of our first attempts at directing were devoid of fault, and I fail to see why Impact’s reviewers should not be afforded the same room for error. Certainly it would be preferable for New Theatre to know what Benedict Nightingale thought of its plays, but I equally imagine that Ms Scott would have preferred spending £5 on an ‘Orphans’ directed by Sam Mendes and starring Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes and some celebrity who might suit the role of Liam (I can’t think of one off the top of my head). Student enterprises can’t be perfect all the time.

  • Gabby
    30 October 2010 at 04:21
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    Emily, opening your comment with the phrase ‘This is not a personal attack” doesn’t stop some of your comment from being a personal attack. Repeatedly calling the reviewer ignorant is hurtful and unconstructive. Also, talking about sticks up rear ends brings you down to the level of Voice of Reason/One Solo Artist. Please keep it clean, people.

  • Bora Hunja
    30 October 2010 at 06:21
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    i personally would like to apologize for my last paragraph. i realize that it may come across as unfair and unnecessary so i thought i’d clear up: kathryn, from what i read i think this is probably one of your first reviews (if not your first) and you therefore probably didn’t expect this much fallout. sorry! no matter how hard we try, most people involved in the theatre will take some things personally, but that’s mainly because of how passionately we feel about the shows that we put on. i’m absolutely sure you didn’t write this review with any ill intentions (or i certainly hope so!). so on to what i really mean. you wrote this article and sent it to the editors who went on to post it. i would personally expect more from a review but that’s my opinion and it’s not really my place to criticise either you or the editors for your decisions. i apologise again for any comments that may be taken personally! i really shouldn’t write comments while in the heat of the moment after having a few drinks…

  • Bora Hunja
    30 October 2010 at 06:31
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    ack! sorry to keep commenting but one more thing!

    kathryn: i hope this hasn’t scared you off. part of the experience of coming to uni is to get involved in loads of the activities that you’re interested in and writing for impact is a great opportunity. please please don’t be discouraged by this thread; if anything, it should encourage you to prove some of us here wrong and the others right.

    oh goodness, i hope that hasn’t come off as patronising. it’s really hard to sound natural while typing at 6:30am.

  • Cesar Teixeira
    30 October 2010 at 08:47
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    The personal attacks do not help this debate in any way. This should be about the review, our contrasting opinions on the play itself and perhaps, at most, about the nature of theatrical criticism. All the rest, particulary when phrased sarcastically or using any sort of language that aims to offend, is counter productive.

    Tommo, yes there is a reciprocity. That does not imply that Impact owes the New Theatre positive reviews. It owes them good reviews, infact, it owes itself good reviews. Personally, I dont think this is a good review, then again, some might have the same opinion of mine.

    I would like to think I don’t let my personal feelings get in the way of my reviews. I have, in the past, given reviews that were critical about the show, but yes I do try to be positive about it. If anything, the fact that I know so many of these people and admire how much hard work goes into these productions, influences my need to portray my criticisms in a positive light. As someone who has directed previously, I am sure u appreciate that no matter how much we all say these reviews don’t matter, egos are fragile things, and the last thing any director wants is for their cast to feel disheartened by a damning review.

    As for me thinking that reviewers should be those who appreciate the complexities of theatre, I don’t think it is an unreasonable request. As we are pulled up on our directorial failings, so we should be able to pull up others on what some of us think are their failures as reviewers. I know I am for perfection in my contributions for both SRS’s. I also know I am very far off achieving it. Which is why I appreciate any constructive criticism those around me have to offer.

    All this is accessory. Liz, her cast and crew should be proud of what they have brought to the stage.

  • Sam
    30 October 2010 at 12:10
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    I would like to congratulate Kathryn on joining the ranks of Impact Contributors who have provoked interesting and heated dialogue following an article. It always makes for good reading.

    I liked the article, it made me want to see the play to make up my mind (which is surely what a Theatre would want from a review…), but at the end of the day, we need to remember that this is a review. Not everyone agrees with them. Jonathan Ross used to review films, and sometimes I would agree, other times I would vehemently disagree. But when he disagreed with my perspective, I didn’t write to him expressing my outrage.

    And yes, not all aspects of the play were mentioned (such as the set). But to be honest, unless the sets were poor, I don’t need to know about them. I expect good sets (afterall, it is New Theatre, who are good at set desgin). I’m going to watch the play where I’m more interested in watching the actors, not just stare at the background.

    People are blowing this way out of proportion. I really think that everyone needs to calm down.

  • RL
    30 October 2010 at 12:19
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    The New Theatre is constantly preaching inclusivity, wanting more people to get involved, fresh ideas, new faces but it always fails to practice what it preaches. Rather than accepting, it jumps down the throat of anyone who does not agree with its own consensous, biased or not.

    I am by no means having a go at what the theatre does, what it produces or the people in it but I just want to emphasise that any freshers or new people to the theatre, who read the comments on this review, are not going to be likely to want to join in with people who unjustly attack a reviewer who, at the end of the day, is simply and honestly stating their initial responses to a production.

    I would like to congratulate Kathryn on her bravery in simply stating her opinion (whether the NT agree with it or not)

  • Amy
    30 October 2010 at 13:33
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    I find this petty confrontation between Impact and New Theatre very tiring. Why is it that when we come face to face with one another we are all praises and we work together to support one another, and when we have the protection of a laptop screen and a pseudonym the gloves come off and we begin to attack each other? I was not aware that the conflict between these two SRS’s ran so deep. I was under the impression that we provide two very different forms of media to enrich not only our lives at university but other students as well. The below-the-belt comments made by some people in this thread are very hurtful when, at the end of the day, we are all just students pursuing things we enjoy in our spare time at uni. This is not the national theatre and this is not the Guardian’s culture section. We must remember that we are all just providing a service to students and not to be in competition with each other. Kathryn, your review is fine. It does lack critical opinion on James’ character and portrayal of Danny, and the lack of opinion on the set and lighting design highlights an area of your review that does need some work on in the future if you are to avoid this kind of long winded and perhaps unnecessary catty online dialogue. I would urge Impact members to not launch into an assault on new theatre members that are supposedly backing a play that they are a part of. Many of the comments have been from audience members only.
    Can we all just remember why we do what we do with Impact and New Theatre, and stop picking holes in each other to try and score points of one another.

    As for the play, I thoroughly enjoyed it, although perhaps enjoyed is the wrong term for something, that left me feeling quite on edge and concerned for the future of all the characters I saw on stage. As for the design – I have yet to see anything better on the NT stage, after 3 years of watching most productions.

  • Lawrence Bolton
    30 October 2010 at 14:31
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    To everyone,

    I think all New Theatre productions respect the opinions of the reviewers, as the point of theatre is ultimately for the engagement of an audience.

    In terms of the inclusivity of the New Theatre, I don’t think this is the forum for debate on that subject. However, as am member of the New Theatre committee, I think our current Social Sec should be particularly commended for the social events, parenting schemes and workshops that have already been established this year to encourage inclusivity in the theatre. Similarly, we welcome new people into the theatre. There are a high proportion of freshers acting in our season shows, a large number of new people working backstage and technically and an increase in accessibility and awareness of what the theatre does.

    If anybody really does have an issue with the inclusivity of the New Theatre and would like to get involved, please email the relevant member of the committee. All of our contact addresses are available at


    Lawrence xXx

  • Stephen Lovejoy
    30 October 2010 at 19:48
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    What I find quite interesting about this article, is that the people commenting have been far more critical of the review than the review ever was of the play. The point of the review is to give an appraisal of the play, therefore the focus of all further comments should really be on the play. What many people seem to be doing is reviewing the review, and ironically when they do so the very criticisms they give apply to their own comments (their reviews of the review). You’ve been focusing on the mistakes and bad points, and paying no heed to the good parts of the article. This is a general appraisal of all the comments and I’m not focusing on anyone in particular.

    There’s be some mention in this comment thread of the inculsivity of New Theatre. At Impact, we too aim to be as inclusive as possible. I believe this is Kathryn Scott’s first time writing for us and I really hope she isn’t too put off by the amount of criticism her article has received. It takes a lot of guts to write what you honestly think in a review, it’s all too tempting to temper it with niceties and be overly kind.

    Of course, the most amusing thing about all these is that in terms of getting people to see the play, this review, which so many of you find unsatisfactory, is probably going to be one of the most successful ones we’ve had in a while – due of course, to the large amount of comments it has attracted. People are going to want to see what the fuss is all about.

  • Ben Cave
    30 October 2010 at 20:15
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    Hey Guys. Not wishing to throw my two cents in on any issue but would simply observe that from an outside perspective, responses to this review are exactly the kind of thing that convinces people outside new theatre of it’s members insularity and high regard for their own work.

    That said I loved the play and thought it had some powerhouse performances. Alongside this I would fully support Ms. Scott’s right to pen a review without being told that here opinions fail to conform to some objective standpoint which any reviewer of a show ought to have.

    To review theatre well (as I myself learned through bitter failure to do so) is something in the eye of the reader. The most I think we can hope for is any reader to be intrested in making up their own mind from the audience. I think that this review accomplishes this very well and my disagreement with some of her points only adds to the validity to her writing.

    We cannot adore ourselves in splendid isolation new theatre. We must accept the views of all those who see our plays as equally valid. This diversity of opinion strengthens what we do. A volley of unwelcoming, bickering comments only makes us appear small-minded and insular.

  • Jerbs
    30 October 2010 at 22:01
    Leave a Reply

    Oh dear.

    For those of you who will understand: TL;DR.

    Kathryn: As a long serving member of NT, apologies for the rudeness!

    Pseudonyms: Man (or woman) up. If you won’t stand behind your views, what are they worth?

    Everyone else: The play sold lots of tickets. Mostly people enjoyed it. That’s what New Theatre is here for! NSDF liked it too (as I understand). So who cares what has been written here!

    Tommo: I’m glad you enjoyed the pulsating streetlight. I enjoyed programming it 😛

  • Dan S
    30 October 2010 at 22:07
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    Wow this is a long a thread, and it’s about to get even longer.
    After reading this article and its subsequent comments I felt that for some unknown reason there were still a few things that need to be said. So please forgive me my two cents.
    First this should be said outright by everyone to Kathryn whether they liked her review or not PLEASE KEEP REVIEWING, do not let this stop you, everyone has a right to their opinion and we should commend everyone that takes part in any way in student life. This was your first review, please see everything written in this comment’s section as feedback, and you should feel privileged to receive it, as it is very rare that anyone gets this level of feedback. I am sure that your next review will be greatly improved by this experience.
    I feel what really bugged people about this review was the way it was written, by which I mean the use of the disparaging language used to describe the play. It seems like the reviewer did not enjoy her experience and wanted to end her association with the play as quickly as possible. Now for the people who worked on the play this can be very hurtful and insulting and one should consider their feelings. To write a review in which you are critical is one thing, but to want to get the review over and done with as quickly as possible (regardless of deadline) is quite another. It should be said of course that there are plenty of reviewers in the professional world who make an art form out of disparaging and condescending reviews, and they are often the most popular, and it is of course a perfectly acceptable way to conduct a review. However, there are two problems in this context.
    First we are not professionals but students, and no matter from which SRS we are from we should not break off into factions but constantly support the work of others (whether in terms of articles, plays, radio broadcast, etc). This does not mean that we cannot be critical, of course we can be, but what it means is that we should treat each other and each other’s work with the respect it deserves. Furthermore professional reviewers have a remit to stop audiences from going to see something and wasting their money, student reviewers should encourage students to see all student productions. If a reviewer really dislikes a work at the very least they should encourage the audience to go see the play and make up their own mind.
    The second problem with this review is that it is massively inconsistent with the previous week’s review of Hedda Gabler, both in terms of opinion and style. I would therefore make a suggestion to the Arts Editors, (if you are reading this far down, in which case good effort) that either you have the same reviewer for every single play in a season (and Kathryn is just as good as anyone else) or you publish multiple reviews so that a variety of views can be made known. I believe that the problem with the approach of posting only one review of a play a week by a different reviewer means that one is not getting a good or bad review from Kathryn or Cesar, but a play is getting a good or bad review from Impact.
    Personally I loved the play and think it was one of the best things I’ve seen at the New Theatre, and if anyone from the production is reading, Congratulations you should be proud.
    P.S. Just a word to One Solo Artist and The Voice of Reasons. You are trolls please go and live under a bridge.

  • Sam Pearce
    30 October 2010 at 23:16
    Leave a Reply

    Chill out.

    All i was focusing on was the hole in Douggie’s crotch.

  • A wishful reviewer
    1 November 2010 at 01:07
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    Dear all,
    Aside from the incessant bickering that seems to be going on, it appears that this web page has been created for a review.

    And a review it shall receive!

    Set: Excellent; intimate, warm, natural, well lit. Streetlight USL exemplifies the level of detail

    Production values: All in all, excellent. Detailed, well thought out, and added to the show without overshadowing the actors (Rhino anybody?)

    Meg: Good, but I still feel like she hasnt been completely pushed. Would like to see her nail a ‘character’.

    James: Solid, believable.

    Douggie: Insert joke here about any mix up between him and his character, but he held the play together.

    Direction: Very average. The script gives you the tension you need, and that was well done by the actors. Entrances and exits were bland, tension was a given and the director did nothing to supplement it, and the ending was pretty awful.

    It seems that all this whining about what the initial review was doing has just clouded the initial idea of what this message-board was for (surely?!) – to give your own interpretation of a show. Not just slag off somebody else’s opinion as ‘wrong’. That’s just rude and ignorant.

    Bloody thesps (surely that’s acceptable?)

  • Another reviewer
    1 November 2010 at 16:45
    Leave a Reply

    In response to ‘wishful reviewer’, having read the play and also seen a previous production of it in London, I disagree whole-heartedly that “the script gives you the tension you need” and “tension is a given” – what a load of tosh! If you had bothered to actually sweep a glance over it, the dialogue is repetitive, tricksy, evasive and it takes a bloody good director to bring sense and life to it. You clearly have no idea how a play is put together. When you have a whole page of “yes” and “no”, it takes incredible attention to detail to make every single utterance count. It is simply misguided to attribute tension purely to the ‘script’ as tension is created by the collaboration of the actors and the director. Even the most fantastic script can be rendered flat with poor direction (as has been the case with a few plays put on at the New Theatre, I’m sure you’d agree). Orphans is a challenging script and Liz has done a great job with it. It exceeded even the production of it I saw in London (which too was very good). When you say the ending was pretty awful, what exactly was awful about it? In what way do you think it could have been better? Back up your opinion!
    Three solid performances, particularly from Douggie. He made the difficult dialogue completely his own and not once did I hear an actor trying to get his head around someone elses words, which for me is the sign of a truly great performance. Right down to the way he repeatedly tugged his t-shirt when nervous and his awkward, sidelong glances at the other characters, he was absolutely compelling to watch.
    So that’s my interpretation. Now, ‘wisful reviewer’, go away and read the script and then decide whether “tension is a given”……..

  • Anothernother reviewer
    1 November 2010 at 18:39
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    Is that the performance in London that the director saw before she did Orphans as well?


  • Lucy Vallance
    2 November 2010 at 12:40
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    I loved it. It was witty yet poignant, thought provoking and tender. Review war aside, all I heard leaving the theatre were good things and the acting standard was easily on a par with the best NT shows I have seen. Futhermore I thought James Lewis’ monologue was exceptional and definitely deserved a mention… But then perhaps I’m a little biased.

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