PASS Out is the final show for this year’s HND Acting and Performance graduates from Edinburgh College.
Having attended a fair of few of these and still shuddering, 25 years on, with the memories of my own drama school’s final show, it was a big relief to find that this performance from Edinburgh College was a bit different. Usually, short excerpts from Shakespeare and other great, usually dead, playwrights are performed with – often talented – young people struggling in vain to make their mark with yet another Lady Macbeth wringing of the hands moment, or Tom shouting at his mother in The Glass Menagerie (and unfortunately sounding like they’ve taken a course in dialect speaking from Russell Crowe).
These 29 lucky students in Edinburgh have, instead, been given the opportunity to work with practitioners who are alive and well and currently working in the business. Gerry Mulgrew, Fiona Miller and Gordon Dougall each worked with a separate group of students to create three new pieces of work around a theme that reflects their particular creative interests. Each cast uses the same set, which is largely a blank space with the option of using a few large blocks (these can be moved about and sat or stood on) and a couple of step ladders.
‘Nice’, devised by Gordon Dougall, got the evening off to a rousing start with the ten-strong cast marching and chanting to the beat of a booming drum and charging at the audience - thankfully freezing in space just in the nick of time. This was a strong and stylish start that petered out rather quickly, redeeming itself through a bit of inspired transvestite casting and a thoughtful and poignant ending. The plot teemed with good ideas, but really needed more then 25 minutes for any sort of realistic, engaging development.
Fiona Miller’s ‘A cup of tea is too wet without a biscuit’ was based on the students’ thoughts and observations on aging. This piece was actually very moving in places, exploring the ‘is this it?’ question that may arise in old age and contrasting this with the vitality, energy and hopes and dreams of youth. Much of this theme was considered within relationships, showing the excitement and mutual respect of young love turning to the impatience and irritability born of too many years staring at the same face and the same old niggling habits. Luckily, the discomfort and poignancy was beautifully balanced with some humour and tenderness.
Gerry Mulgrew based his piece, ‘Descent’, on the real testimonies of survivors of 9/11. Beginning with accounts from around the world – from America to Poland and Dubai – in answer, perhaps, to the ‘where were you when…?’ question and returning to these again at the end, was a good framing device. In the middle, the real-life testimonies highlighted the random nature of decisions made in the heat of the moment that were to result in life or death. One woman walked into a lift with her colleagues, jumping out, on instinct, at the last minute. No-one in the lift survived when the second plane hit their tower. This was a skilfully devised and directed piece and the cast gave some fine performances.
All in all, it was a good evening’s entertainment and we have some new names to watch out for in the future.
22nd & 23rd May