"Unexpected" SHU Review
This performance was THE perfect opening for the Final Show Festival of SHU Performance at Sheffield Hallam University.
"Unexpected" is a contemporary comedy play, full of tasty sarcasm and biblical wit, focusing on the central character 'Mia' as she learns she is six months pregnant and questions who the father could be after not being intimate with anyone for 9 months. She is immediately acquainted with the Angel Gabriel, Lucifer the prince of darkness and of course her obnoxious ex Michael, who all claim the baby is theirs.
What I particularly adored about this production was the intelligent use of a future 'Mia', played by the hilariously down to earth and lovable Sophie Davidson, who narrated the story as a sort of nostalgic and light hearted 'warning' to immaculate conception. Her performance set the opening tone superbly, with an air of immediate likeability and sense of comfort for the audience, we knew we were in good hands.
Then kicks off the 'flashback' and we are greeted by a heavily pregnant Mia taking a pregnancy test and talking to her friend Rebecca on the phone. A great use of technology here as the actress Kiera Rhodes playing Rebecca was actually speaking via loudspeaker on the phone (presumably from a different room). I love this as it's something I've never seen before and just highlighted the immense creativity of the cast.
Present day Mia, played by Alexandra Hughes, had the great mix of innocent confusion and frustrated 'my life is over' mentality of a surprise pregnancy. Her comedy was on point and she never missed a beat on the jokes when fighting with her ex Michael and bringing to life the originative swearing. She was the hero of the story and I was rooting for her all the way through. My particularly favourite moment was when greeting Angel Gabriel and assuming he is her prospective client (as she is a mistress - spoilers sorry!) leading him to her overly exercised routine and providing the hilarious misunderstanding comedy that this play is built from.
Speaking of the famous angel himself, Gabriel was played by Sam Fake. This quality and delightful camp-ness could not be done by anyone else! He brought a freshness to the production and really stood out as he dressed in all white. I enjoyed his eccentric and brazen attitude.
Michael, the overbearing ex, played by Declan Smith was the vision of a childish and ego-centric masculine man reminding his ex Mia that HE dumped her. He continuously made fun of the situation and had to have the last word. His native Scottish accent really intensified the insults.
When Lucifer came onto the scene, this was a major turning point, not only for the characters but for us as audience members. With a smoky and bright red entrance accompanied by menacing music, who better than to claim a stake in the conception than the ruler of the underworld. Jack Hallam really shined in this role, he gave us high, high energy and sparkling comedic timing with chuckle-some facial expressions. He took control of this character and really made it his own.
Rebecca, played by Kiera Rhodes, gave a convincingly neurotic and self-seeking yet sympathetic performance. Her ability to walk in what looked like six inch heels was entertaining enough but her capacity to command the audience's attention in her ranting monologues of a very long overdue confession, (I WON'T SPOIL THIS ONE) and insight into her side of this story was impressive!
I have to commend these guys on the set. They really transformed the space and had the audience eating out of the palms of their hands. The meticulously well thought out set design and use of space, with a platform for Future Mia to stand on, was such a feast for the eyes and really set the story well. I also really liked the breaking of the fourth wall with each character having a monologue showing us the insights of what they were thinking. One last thing that was probably very small but really effective; the door was placed centre stage for characters to enter, behind this door were mirrors that were placed strategically. I thought this was a really cool idea and symbolically, we could read a lot into this. Well done guys!