Review: Game Plan

gameplanthingThis week’s Drama Barn show was a refreshing and surprisingly comical change of pace, a production that showed sensitivity as well as laugh out loud performances. GamePlan by Alan Ayckbourn was overall a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

The play is set in a small, chic Docklands apartment where sixteen year old Sorrell (Sophie Mann) lives with her ageing mother Lynette (Flora Ogilvy), struggling with life following the departure of the father figure and Lynette being sacked from a successful and important internet company. When times are particularly tough, and Lynette tells Sorrel they may have to move out of London, Sorrell ropes in her best friend Kelly (Maria Terry) in helping her out with a rather dubious and desperate plan.

The attention to detail must be the first thing mentioned about this production, because it truly set it apart from any other show I have witnessed in the barn. The set was meticulously chosen to create the homey albeit slightly clinical London apartment, with carpet and lino on the floor, and even the red bar stools adding a distinct 2001 feel to the place. Everything from mobile phones ringing, to the desktop background of the laptop was noticed and appreciated by the audience, who were then able to immerse themselves fully and completely within this play.
Leading actress Sophie Mann as sixteen year old Sorrell carried the play with strength and skill, as endearing in her ‘teenage mood-swings’ as she was in her most vulnerable moments. Her onstage relationship with best friend Kelly, played superbly by Maria Terry, was the perfect resemblance of teenage friendship. Terry accessed the pubescent mindset of a sixteen year old girl excellently, with her gawky persona lighting up the stage, providing complete comic outlet throughout the play. The mother figure of Lynette, played by Flora Ogilvy was therefore the grounding force, erratic in her complex shifts between hysterical mother and broken woman, something which Ogilvy achieved with sensitivity and success, particularly in the second half.

Director Alex Baldry and producer Laurel Hill did an outstanding job with a play that I personally found weak and uncertain. There were moments of awkwardness and failings in the script which were admirably recovered by the sheer talent of the entire cast. Namely, supporting performances by James Dixon, Gabrielle James, George Morgan and Steven Jeram provided a flawless ensemble piece, with their comic input, individually and as a group, making the play the success that it was. Baldry’s vision and direction rescued the script, and brave choices about performances allowed the audience to have a more multidimensional appreciation of the characters and their stories.

Still, at times it was hard to distinguish the style of the piece, as the realism and honesty of the performances often conflicted with the almost farcical script and the exaggerated dialogue. Sometimes it was hard to truly sympathise and connect with the characters, but that was simply because it felt as if we were not given enough time to appreciate their backgrounds fully, especially considering the moral and ethical complexity presented by Ayckbourn. What saved this was the actors’ understanding of their own characters, for their assurance and emulation allowed the audience to grasp their perspectives immediately within the play.

This play was refreshing within the line up of heavy Drama Barn shows this term. It was refreshing on its own, as a good and impressive piece of theatre. It was refreshing in that a superb cast was spearheaded by three powerful and accessible female characters. I thoroughly recommend this performance, as a chance for anyone to remember why they enjoy theatre: funny, touching and well executed. Make sure you buy tickets for tonight’s and tomorrow’s performances.