I’ve previously gone on the record as saying how much I admire what Fourth Monkey are trying to achieve by establishing a modern, training rep company for young, fresh acting talent. I’ve also gone on record as saying that some of their productions have been woefully miscast, ill conceived and frankly well intentioned but poor.
So, it gives me great pleasure to review their production of The Baccae (in a new translation by Ranjit Bolt), the first in this second season of plays in rep, and say that it’s far better than the first one in the previous season.
Everything seems to have been advanced. The set design is simple but effective, the reworking of the age old story into a more rock-opera inspired one is startling but entertaining and constantly reminded me of the likes of Godspell and Hair in terms of musicality. I wouldn’t have objected to more songs to be honest.
I’m going to be a pain here and assume you know the story, if you don’t then Google it perhaps. The large chorus is female and the lead roles in this production are firmly in the hands of the men. To that end none of the girls stand out but all seem to do their job perfectly well. However some of the guys do stand out. All for the right reasons I hasten to add.
Jack Riddiford as Dionysus seems to have all the brooding confidence and charm that a living God would have even if he doesn’t quite always get a handle on the menace and darker sides of the role tending to rely on charm, matinee idol looks and an ability to knock out a decent tune on his electric guitar. But he holds audience attention and focus and is interesting to watch. I was going to give him the honor of stand out performance of the show but as it played out in front of my eyes it became obvious that, as good and as talented as he is, someone else stood out as the highlight of the show.
It may come a shock that for me the performer who became more and more interesting on stage, who seemed to bring something interesting to the character, was playing a relatively minor role. That role was Cadmus. And the young actor Sean Delaney. I really can’t stress enough how fascinating he is on stage. I can’t put my finger on why, or what he has or does that is so intriguing to watch but whatever it is he has it by the bucket load.
Although I’ve picked out Riddiford and Delaney I have to say that all of the performances were strong and that the whole production was ably directed by Natalie Katsou who obviously had a clear vision of what she wanted for this play. And clearly got some damn fine performances from some very young performers who we have to remember are still in training.
Enough gushing about stand out actors, I have to say that this production, although good, is not perfect. Some stylistic choices for the chorus and slightly too much dry ice filling the theatre and thereby hiding seats from view are minor irritations though.
To sum up, this is engaging, entertaining, interesting theatre. It’s a difficult and challenging text delivered nigh on perfectly by one and all and the cast contains at least two people who, if this world was fair, would be destined for stardom. So go and see it so that in years to come you can say that you were lucky enough to see Riddiford and Delaney when they were just starting out.
Article Title: Full of future acting stars