Event Review: ‘Headstrong’ Delivers Haunting Message
This year’s Scholars’ Play, directed by Mr Cheshire, provided audiences with a globe-trotting tale of Victorian repression, camp comedy and haunting, poignant imagery.
With Bede's Senior Production of Into The Woods occupying the vast bulk of Bede’s Drama department’s energies, this low-key production of Headstrong featured a young, energetic group of actors who picked up the responsibility of providing the School with a centrepiece production for December with vim, vigour and vitality.
Staged in the intimate Studio B in The Miles Theatre, with a jam-packed, brutalist set, director Mr Cheshire and Mr Waring’s Theatre Production team emphasised the claustrophobia of April De Angelis’ 2004 National Theatre Shell Connections play, trapping audiences in the galley of an Industrial-era ocean liner with a cast of colourful, contrasting personalities on a journey to India.
With a central plot involving two young women from different social classes, each ensnared by the confines of their gender and upbringing, audiences were powerless to do anything but watch on as each struggled and strained for self-determination and expression.
Carrying us through the narrative was Rose, played expressively by Charlotte Webb; born into penury and with a mother transported to Australia for crimes slowly revealed across the course of the production, her sad story was that of economic desperation and subjugation.
Acting as Rose’s dramatic foil, Alisha Spiro’s Lila was at first presented as a repellent young woman who could want for nothing – spoiled and strident with a doting mother and promising husband-to-be – but over time the veneer of her life of luxury cracked and fell apart, leaving Lila a broken-hearted, opium-addicted shadow of her former self.
Supporting these two central roles were the likes of Joshua Knight’s comical, hammy Poet, Rhys Clarke’s thundering Captain Lowe and Emily Adam’s bumbling, fawning Mrs Lowe who worked together with a promising cast including Isabelle Sayer, Tom Harrison and Firdet Caraca to create an impactful, harrowing production.
Threaded through with evocative music, subtle lighting and some powerful, ethereal moments care of the wraithlike Anne Kato as Rose’s Mother – whose brief appearances will live as long in the memory as similarly brief yet noteworthy contributions by Lorenzo Samuels as The Young Doctor and Ben Webster as Mr Logan – Mr Cheshire’s production left little room for ambiguity.
A merciless piece of drama engineered to provoke strong reactions from audiences, this year’s Scholar’s Play set out to achieve its objectives, offering a distressing story filled with flares of theatrical brilliance underpinned by uncomfortable messages about crime, mercy and western society’s bleak legacy of sexual repression.