‘There is a thing about burning. It is so fine…complete…so beautiful.’
Drama Society’s staging of Fahrenheit 451 last night was an unexpectedly brilliant production. Bradbury’s fractured storyline, successfully directed by Marcus Crabb, was shaped into a play well-presented by lighting and sound, as well as a good use of props. Beautifully depicted, the best thing was the small cast representing some enthralling personas.
Located in a dystopic society where firemen are asked to start fires instead of putting them out and all knowledge is illegal and the possession of books is prohibited, there is a man who, displeased with the world and filled with blind injustices, decides to open his mind to the thrill of knowledge. For those who have read the book, it may have come as a surprise when Beatty and the firemen were played by women instead of men. With this change in the character’s portrayal, the director achieved slight confusion but delight in the audience. Indeed, the actors’ ability to maintain the characters’ masculine identity meant the gender swap had a favourable outcome.
The show is staged in an ‘in-the-round’ style, allowing the actors to move freely, facing around the room in order to captivate everyone with their performance. We are first introduced to the main character Guy Montag, played by Ben Kawalec. During his performance we somehow identify with his thrive of knowledge, yet lack of understanding. His restrained attitude towards the others and his confusion towards the imposed society he is living in is greatly achieved by his body language and tone of voice, and as an audience we feel just as perturbed with society as he does.
The lack of free thinking and liberation is represented well in the mechanical monotonous sounds of the alarms and television, almost as if we are drawn to be a part of it. These abrupt sounds, however, are a constant reminder of the rules within that society that we each day feel closer to. We identify with the loss of passion for books and the attachment to machines and trends that enable us to no longer think for ourselves in our everyday lives. The props and costumes were chosen wisely, as no big changes are needed to be done throughout the play due to the places where the scenes are set.
‘We identify with the loss of passion for books and the attachment to machines and trends that enable us to no longer think for ourselves in our everyday lives.’
Beatty’s character is also fascinating; Beatty signals complex feelings towards Montag and at points seems to be showing him lessons that are as rough as usual, yet simultaneously evokes sympathy for him. This character is incredibly well acted on stage by Marff Pothen. Her presumptuous masculine speech almost makes you feel uncomfortable and strangely captivated by what she is trying to displease you with. On the downside, the long speeches made you lose focus slightly and lowered the tension between the characters, as they also became part of the audience in those long monologues. Nonetheless, the audience seemed to be attentive and captivated throughout this performance, and the unusual adaptation makes this play a must see.
Farenheit 451 is showing from Friday 19th – Sunday 21th February at the Drama Barn. Tickets can be purchased on the YUSU website or at the door.