DramaSoc’s production of Neil LaBute’s Autobahn managed to deal with incredibly dark topics, while still including light comic relief through its varied vignettes. The set was strangely simple yet extravagant, made out of car parts suspended via string from the ceiling, creating an open view of a car. This was a huge difference to the cosy, cushioned setting of the Drama Barn itself.
There was a screen behind the car of someone filming what I expect to be a classic car journey in fast-forward – nothing particularly out of the ordinary. The ticking of the indicator and the general car-hum created a rather comfortable effect among the silent audience. This was contrasted to the jerkiness of the video itself and, of course, the random car in the middle of the stage. Thanks must be given to Thomas Rosser (visual), Alasdair Baynes (audio) and Alex Scott (tech).
I have to hand it to Ellie Davies on her acting. Even as the silent mum in the first scene, she didn’t have to speak a word to create that truly awkward car-journey. Her micro-expressions and half sighs were enough to get the audience as frustrated as the passenger, her daughter (played by Emma Wright). The daughter was desperately trying to illicit some verbal reaction, to no avail. I particularly liked her interest in the word “funny – not funny ha-ha”. This as the opening vignette worked well to create the whole idea that there is no escaping somebody when you’re in a car with them.
This uncomfortable atmosphere was a huge juxtaposition to the next hilarious vignette, with Ellie Davies this time as a psycho-stalker who had a major issue of being broken up with, and Fiona Kingwill as her girlfriend. These two do well to create the feeling of “there are so many places I’d rather be right now” from the audience. Fiona’s gauche character added to a witty and realistic scene of two people that just shouldn’t be together. Fiona’s character constantly correcting Ellie’s (which, by the way, she hates) and Ellie’s character being a psycho-bitch who cyber bullies her exes. The scene ended with a wide-eyed terrified Fiona who was staring ahead, with Ellie leaning on her shoulder in a content but really creepy manner.
Autobahn dealt well with dark and sensitive topics. Thanks must be given to Maya Ellis on her directing. Fiona Kingwill and Hollie Whelan created an incredibly intense recount of a possible rape, leaving the audience silent and wide eyed as we begged for more information, only to be granted that it was “dark-ish,” which was incredibly frustrating.
This wasn’t the only intense scene though – JP Guerrier played a student being, for all intents and purposes, kidnapped by his teacher (played by James Esler). At first you hope, in a sick way, that James is playing the father who doesn’t have custody over his son, and is taking them away to an idyllic chalet behind the mother’s back for some much needed bonding. Eventually it begins to sink in that this is definitely a paedophile situation – especially as this happens before the interval where everyone goes out into the cold air asking each other “was he a paedo or do I just have a dirty mind?” Anyway, in case you’re wondering, the general consensus from who I was sitting with was that yes, it had to be a paedo teacher gently massaging the boy’s hair as he drifted to sleep.
However, the play didn’t forget its comic relief. The “reconnaissance mission of a Nintendo 64” as the Drama Barn website put it, was brilliant, with James Esler playing a depressed new member of Singleton and the over enthusiastic Harry Ward, convincing him that the Nintendo must be rescued from the ex or else humanity as we know it would go to dust. I did think this would be the car-crash scene, given how passionately Harry acted this out, creating a very realistic best-friend situation.
And of course, JP Guerrier’s character called Emma Wright’s “a cunt” in Morrison’s, and now their marriage is falling apart. I thought that definitely deserved some attention for its comedic effect.
All in all, a play that deserved a big round of applause as it is definitely worth seeing, so, grab tickets while you can!
7.30pm Friday 16th – Sunday 18th January, the Drama Barn.
Tickets £5, available online at http://www.yusu.org/tickets or at the door.
More information at http://www.yorkdramasoc.com/#!week-two/c1vj9