Saturday 28 January 2017

Take A Seat - Theatre Review

What: Take A Seat
When: 25 - 29 January
Where: The Butterfly Club
Written and Directed by: Kieran Gould-Dowen
Performed by: Mursal Ahmadi, Alexander Gavioli, Kotryna Gesait, Jaya Jamieson, Adrian Quintarelli, Emily Scerri, and Ryan Stewart.
Dramaturgy by: Ange Arabatzis

Take A Seat
Ryan Stewart, Adrian Quintarelli, Alexander Gavioli, Kotryna Gesait, Emily Scerri, and Jaya Jamieson
Take A Seat is the new play by a rather prolific young theatre maker and writer, Kieran Gould-Dowen, which is playing on the downstairs stage at The Butterfly Club. A story about an array of people who are waiting for final judgement, this is a surprisingly positive story - or set of stories - and is a play people with a religious bent will love.

This play is very ambitious, covering an vast range of fatal circumstances. I am not sure if Gould-Dowen was somehow trying to process a personal experience when he wrote this but the play could use a bit of whittling to allow a more personal connection for the actors and audience.

Having said that, the play covers everything from suicide, and natural death to car accidents and violent gang rape so I guess there is something for everyone. Gould-Dowen also touches on racial issues, inter-religious tensions and anti-gay sentiments. Phew! Do you see what I mean about their may be too much going on? The play is only an hour long after all...

Something I find myself saying quite a bit is that it is rarely a good idea for a playwright to direct their own work. Not because playwrights can't direct. It is just that there is a automatic response to fix problems with the script through acting and technical devices which means they don't give themselves the space to critically examine what they have created and therefore develop as a writer.

The other problem is that Take A Seat does not demonstrate Gould-Dowen's skill as a director either. The stage at The Butterfly Club is small and Take A Seat has a cast of seven, so a creative use of stage space was always going to be a priority. 

For some reason Gould-Dowen has chosen to fill the stage with chairs - more chairs than actors - so there is nowhere for anyone to go. Because of this the entire hour is a long game of musical chairs, but with more chairs than players there is no tension, there are no obstacles to challenge the performers.

The acting was okay and I particularly enjoyed Kotryna Gesait as Sophia and Mursal Ahmadias Nasra. Alexander Gavioli has a real presence on stage and did most of the work in keeping the energy up. He has real talent and played the American soldier who died in Afghanistan with commitment. What he needs to do now is find a way to express the vulnerability which lies under the bluster and then there will be no stopping him.

One of the most poignant moments in the show is a reunion between a father and son played by Adrian Quintarelli and Ryan Stewart respectively. Unfortunately niether of them truly embody their characters and there is nothing in the writing to give Stewart any kind of presence or purpose to being on stage so that whole scenario falls apart. 

I have often wondered if you can write a positive drama for stage and this is what Gould-Dowen has attempted with Take A Seat. The idea is a good one but it does tend to fall into trite platitudes once the characters have told their stories.

Take A Seat does have strong potential with some pruning, refining, and more in-depth exploration of key characters. If you want to see something positive and uplifting - particularly if you are deathly with a mortality issue - come and see this play. It may make you cry, but you will leave feeling positive about things at the end.

Warning: This show contains strong traces of God.

2.5 Stars

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