Immaculate at the Drama Barn

She confirms that the large bump on her stomach is in fact a baby, but not having had sex in over a year, is perplexed as to whose it is and how it got there

Immaculate – a dark comedy written by Oliver Lansley – has been skilfully reproduced by the drama barn taking audiences in York on the whirlwind journey of Mia (Stephanie Wake-Edwards), a twenty-two year old part-time dominatrix. After deciphering the code of a home pregnancy stick, she confirms that the large bump on her stomach is in fact a baby, but not having had sex in over a year, is perplexed as to whose it is and how it got there. With only one brief set-change, the story unfolds in the living room of Mia, where her ex-boyfriend; an angel, the devil and a hopelessly eager admirer join the story; continually increasing the farcicality of the plot in an attempt to illuminate the situation. With a modern day twist on age-old question-begging doctrinal elements, this play not only amusingly deals with religious questions but also poses more subtle questions on the nature of stories/plays and the way an audience receives them.

Four masked characters entering the scene in sinister fashion, acting as in-play narrators with impressive well-choreographed moves

Right from the start, the audience is drawn into the surreal world of the play with four masked characters entering the scene in sinister fashion, acting as in-play narrators with impressive well-choreographed moves to display the core themes of the plot they are rhythmically droning. The director (Andy Bewley) created an enticing start to a strange but gripping story; but with the interlude of the four masked characters reappearing throughout the play, they reveal a story of their own rather than remaining wholly a sideshow. Saying that, there were a few moments where it seemed the rhythmic chanting had lost its unity but the adept performers continued on as normal, leaving the question unanswered as to whether the moments of incohesion were intentional. Another memorable feature of the play used to magnificent effect was the time-frozen or unnaturally slowed down insight scenes. Characters are taken out of the scene by sharp lighting changes, usually a spotlight to isolate the character. Insights are often in the form of a monologue seemingly directed at the audience. These scenes featured throughout the play and are kept fresh by new spins and unexpected turns of personal character insight. The lighting and sound throughout are used simply but extremely effectively, with the one significant scene change introducing Gary Goodman (Joe Mackenzie) in his element on the dance floor, the light, sound and character performance combining extremely well to create a memorable scene.

Rattles through her lines so exceptionally quickly – seemingly without a single breath – that it would make any rapper nervous

Quite a concise play, the show runs for seventy-five minutes without intervals. It seems if it had been any longer, the performers may have risked serious fatigue with each scene demanding high amounts of energy and volatility. Perhaps it was because of the bright stage lights, but the slightly sweaty forehead, rosy-red cheeks and quivering vocal chords were at times noticeable. There is no doubt that each performer was dedicated to their role and all that it required. Dedication came in many forms, but every characters ability to produce consistent accents throughout without any noticeable flaws certainly played a part. Perhaps the pinnacle of dedication came during one scene where Rebecca (Amy Warren) – Mia’s best friend – rattles through her lines so exceptionally quickly – seemingly without a single breath – that it would make any rapper nervous. It got a well-deserved applause, the only one during the show from a tame audience.

However, the dedication did go a little far for me. I am not one to be offended by swearing or profane language but some scenes were filled with it to the point of overkill. Perhaps not a fault of the team, as it was part of the script, but the excessive amounts of shouting from almost every character was at times too much to bear. At times, the monstrous shouting detracted from the believable environment the performers worked hard to build. It is strange that some character’s role relied so heavily on the aesthetic of shouting their lines and losing their shit, as it was not always fully convincing. Regardless, at times, the high volume high-energy approach was indeed comically brilliant.

I would highly recommend seeing this play at the drama barn over the next few days; not only a play where all the money raised goes to charity, but a show that offers insights, plenty of opportunities to laugh and is a great example of how important it is for all aspects of a show to compliment each other.

 

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