• melaniejhopkins

"Smoke & Mirrors" SHU Review

"Smoke & Mirrors", a postmodern Shakespeare adaptation. I didn't quite know what to expect as the cast wanted it to be this way and it's safe to say that I was thoroughly impressed!

A combination of classic Shakespeare monologue and scene text intertwined with a self-aware and quite realistic narrative depicting a group of student's 'stream of consciousness' surrounding final show. One thing I have to commend these guys on was the beautiful flow between classic text interpretation and devised text, with most of the audience being fellow final show students can relate to. As well as the use of comedic elements to entertain and audience interaction that made us really feel like we were in their shoes and collectively as one with the actors.

It seemed effortlessly done and each Shakespearian monologue or scene stood out as it reflected or mimicked the thoughts of each student. For instance, Amelia Daisy Phair made her intention clear that the most important part of the performance for her was the audience. This was then gratified by a Shakespearean monologue that reflected just that with the opening line being; "Prithee, Tell me whats thou think of me?" (I know, probably not spelt right - apologies) which she said directly to members of the audience. She was very comfortable on stage and commanded the audience's attentions when in and out of role, a very strong stage presence indeed.

Other instances that stick out were Jacob Jackson's portrayal of Patrick Stewart's famous cinematic Macbeth monologue ("Is this a dagger..."). He recited the monologue at the same time that a projection of Patrick Stewart was playing, complete with a bald cap and all. And in some parts of this monologue, he introduced a rather farcical element of comedy that struck a cord with the audience. This of course related back to Jacob's inner thoughts of wanting to be like the acting giants we see on stage such as Patrick Stewart or Benedict Cumberbatch. Jacob's performance as Dorian Gray was particularly shining as the fear of growing old was captured well in his mannerisms and body language on stage.

Ella Harget-Dash was the third and probably most emotionally in touch with her roles in this performance. Her timely 'breakdowns' and huge fear of failing her degree was quite relatable and she really bared herself in front of us to show her inner weakness that too many people are afraid to be shown. Her roles in the Shakespearian texts were diverse and captured a very fully rounded person. Her performance came off as not only extremely likeable but very real.

I particularly felt the name was fitting to this production as each actor reflected the anxieties of acting, particularly from young actors, and revealed to us the vulnerable human hiding behind a character. They blurred the line between what it was to 'act' or present oneself on stage and showed us something refreshingly different that I can actually see being performed at a fringe theatre festival (Prague Fringe 2020 perhaps?). Well done guys, a very alternative and thought-provoking performance that I'm likely to remember for a long time!