Event Review: ‘Snips and Cuts’ Eviscerates Consumer Culture

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During the final week of the Spring Term, select audiences squeezed into Studio 2 of The Miles Theatre to experience Snips and Cuts, an audacious new satirical play written by Upper Sixth pupil Rhys Clarke.

Before the production began, each attendee found a medical form on their seat that, in its small print, hinted at the mischievous sense of humour and attention to style of the play’s director, Bede’s Head of English Mr Oliver.

Mr Oliver’s creative vision enlivened this challenging work, which took aim at privatised healthcare, capitalist excess and the payday loan industry through the eyes of three sets of characters living in a nihilistic, authoritarian future – an ambitious set of themes inspired, in no small part, by novels and short stories encountered by its young playwright during his English and Drama lessons.

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The production’s opening moments established an acerbic, bleak tone, with scavengers Jamie, played by Rhys, and his elderly slave Dick, played by fellow Upper Sixth Former Charlie Belton, emerging from between the audience to leaf through piles of rubbish scattered downstage for something to sell.

With Studio 2’s aisle strewn with detritus, its stage illuminated by lightbulbs encased in syringes suspended from the ceiling, and the blank, starkly panelled walls of the stage giving the illusion of a padded cell, all of those present could be under no illusion: this was a world of madness, dependency and decay.

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As Jamie chided his assistant and sorted through the city’s filth, collecting severed fingers, solitary high-heeled shoes and discarded medical supplies, we learned that theirs was a world controlled by a vast totalitarian conglomerate, Quicksifix – a private-public partnership keeping humanity controlled through perpetual indebtedness.

Those unable to keep up with Quicksifix rates of interest, we learned, were forced to sell their teeth, blood and other organs, giving all they have until there is nothing left – a blackly comic notion with predictably grotesque implications.

Although these two characters only appeared in three short scenes across the play, Rhys and Charlie presented Jamie and Dick’s relationship as drolly unpleasant – a dynamic that was thoughtfully toyed with once the history of their sinister partnership was revealed.

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Subsisting just above street level meanwhile was Upper Sixth Former Anne Kato’s Amy, a defiant citizen submitting herself for “harvesting.” Cruel, cold and braying, Amy’s fate saw her brought low and made surprisingly sympathetic – an unlikely transformation enabled by Amy’s burgeoning romance with naïve Quicksifix employee Louis.

Played with verve and panache by Lower Sixth Former Luke Noble, Louis was the heart and soul of this production. Luke’s flawless comic timing and extraordinarily emotive face added much-needed levity and pathos to proceedings, with Amy and Louis’ doomed romance concluding in a riotous and macabre dinner during which Luke fawned over the final, pitiful remnants of his lover – her appendix, suspended in aspic.

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A final yet equally fundamental story thread involved two Drama department stalwarts: the alarmingly bandy-limbed Tom McGovern as philandering surgeon Roger and Upper Sixth student Lillie Skerman on particularly saucy form as assistant surgeon Natalie.

Playing two eminently dislikeable mid-level Quicksifix employees engaged in a financial and sexual power play, these two young actors once again demonstrated outstanding skill, walking the thin line between love and hate in amusing, horrendous ways. Things could only end in disaster for one or other of the ignoble pair, and with Ms Skerman soon set to leave Bede’s and move onto university it felt only fitting that she had the last laugh.

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Enriched by some solid supporting performances from Upper Sixth Former Fleur Reynolds as a suitably cruel Quicksifix Telesales Assistant, Lower Fifth Former Issy Sayer as her second in command, and Firdest Karaca in a brief but resonate cameo, Snips and Cuts proved to be a stimulating, stark and very funny production – one that too few people could have seen due to ticketing limitations.

Moreover, young Master Clarke showed huge promise with his first stab at theatrical writing and should be commended for creating such an imaginative, vibrant and caustic drama.

Let us only hope that his future is brighter than that of his characters!

 

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