Week 2: after exams, post-essays, and in the wake of a mind-numbing hangover which they justified. It’s back to normal. Back to theatre. What better way to begin the term than with the student-written stage piece Mother’s Ruin by Rosie O’Sullivan.
It’s quite a cold day on Heslington West: my hands are red, my neck unscarved and defenseless. So as I enter James College Hall, it’s with some reluctance that I shake off my coat and take out a pad to pen a few quotes for this preview. My spirits are soon regaled however as the merry troupe of thespians make their appearance. If it was cold, the actors clearly haven’t been notified; among guffaws of laughter and trailing the most interesting miscellany of props, in they burst. “Did you bring the apron?” a voice chirps, eyeing up the odds and ends. It seems they did, though the ‘apron’ looks more like a nightie than a pinny. And with that, all thoughts of the cold are lost.
Mother’s Ruin has been written by one of TFTV’s third year students, Rosie O’Sullivan. No stranger to the drama scene at York, Sullivan performed in TFTV’s Nothing Compares to You, directed Dramasoc’s Lord of the Flies, and wrote the ODN An Evening with Roald Dahl. If you added more feathers to her cap one wonders whether it would spread wings and fly. But, considering that Mother’s Ruin is contending for the 2015 National Student Drama Festival, O’Sullivan clearly hasn’t chosen to rest on her laurels. As I talk to cast and production team, there’s a tangible sense of excitement surrounding the play. They seem conscious of not wanting to reveal too much, but concede that the play focusses on the dinner-meeting of parental in-laws.
Rehearsals have been running for only a week and a half so it’s been intense but, chatting with Sam Hill, it seems that this is by no means a downside. He tells me that in certain cases the short and sharp barrage of longer rehearsals can be incredibly productive and, in some ways, more suited to a play like Mother’s Ruin – the ‘best student script’ he’s worked with. In what is to be a physical, fast-paced comedy of errors, timing will be key. Indeed, O’Sullivan tells me that she often writes with herself in mind when it comes to the pacing of her scripts. Behind a devilish grin, she admits that in some productions she finds herself glancing at her watch after long periods of incessant dialogue. Therefore, it’s interesting that ‘chaotic’ seems to be the recurrent word used to describe Mother’s Ruin. Already pictures of Michael Frayn’s farce-extraordinaire Noises Off start to form in my mind. We shall have to see.
As I make to leave, the actors are performing the script silently – reducing exclamations and interrogatives to the bare essentials of gesticulation and body language. I can’t help but smirk. Looking at the dismal skies overhead and remembering the forecasts for snow, I shake my head. It seems like Mother’s Ruin and the fun it promises might well be the next best thing to an electric blanket in coming days.