In order to experience 40%, the audience is asked to draw themselves away from the safe haven of University Park and out into the sprawling streets of Nottingham. A frantic double-checking of google maps, a short bus ride and a hesitant walk in the freezing winter fog gives an ample reward: Lee Rosy’s Tea shop, a quaint and warm little café tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city nightlife. I was welcomed in, and joined the small line of audience members queuing for their tea and cakes.
We were allowed to sit at certain tables only, the rest reserved for the performance; which meant the audience was included in amongst all the drama. Introduced to us were the characters of Jennifer, Glen, Evan, Nina and Annie, all first year students reluctantly convened together to muster up some semblance of that dreaded venture the young student knows only too well: the group project. The references during the group’s meetings gave the play realism, which led to the inevitable amusement of the mostly-student audience. Familiar discussions of nightclubs, organising PowerPoint slides and moaning about the illusory ‘Callum’ whom no one could contact, brought out titters amongst the watchers as they reminisced upon their own early student days.
Familiar discussions of nightclubs, organising PowerPoint slides …brought out titters amongst the watchers as they reminisced upon their own early student days.
Self-designated leader Jennifer (Holly Gatfield) vibrantly represented the familiar middle class overzealous student archetype, and remained our primary antagonist as she tried fruitlessly to organize her fellow students like an enthusiastic human sheepdog. Jennifer’s overbearing personality intimidated the softer characters of Annie (Emily Brady), Evan (Patrick Sheerin) and Glen (Cameron Walker), but not to be outdone was the free-thinking Nina (Charlotte Kirkman). Jennifer and Nina’s continuous conflict was in stark contrast to the self-deprecating musings of Annie, tenderly played by Emily Brady, whose touching phone conversation with her mother pulled at heartstrings and made eyes water. In a similar vein, Sheerin’s depiction of the once-bullied Evan introduced an element of sentimentality amidst the squabbles. The comedic timing of Cameron Walker as Glen could not be faulted, as he had the least lines and yet managed to be the most typical and realistic student present in Lee Rosy’s.
Self-designated leader Jennifer (Holly Gatfield) vibrantly represented the familiar middle class overzealous student archetype
The writing and directing of Nikki Hill is to be commended. She managed to capture the student experience in a way that brought both laughter and sadness to the audience, and allowed us to reflect upon the apparent absurdities of student life. However, it often felt as though this piece could not decide whether it was a comedic foray into realism, or a farce. The characters went from relatable teenagers one moment, to over-exaggerated stereotypes the next. Jennifer and Nina’s outbursts, though amusing, were provoked so quickly and explosively that it was hard to imagine any genuine student acting so brashly. In Jennifer’s case, the snobbish stereotype was taken too far and made the character frustratingly one-dimensional. Often, the pleasure of viewing the performance was derived from its simplicity and plausibility, which made a lot of the shouting and gesticulating an unnecessary annoyance. The dialogue in places was a little clunky and expositional, but overall the piece flowed well and managed to be both amusing and thought-provoking.
She managed to capture the student experience in a way that brought both laughter and sadness to the audience
40% left me feeling nostalgic for my time as a fledgling student, and provided me with food for thought regarding the complexities of university life. Despite some hiccups and minor breaks from reality, I enjoyed the atmosphere and originality of the performance.
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