We’re celebrating The Crucible’s 50th anniversary with a spectacular theatrical premiere
The Crucible Theatre, pride of Sheffield, world famous, is currently celebrating ’50 years wow!’ is the centerpiece highlight of the ongoing anniversary celebrations Scissors stone paper, a play trilogy with a wow factor all of its own, as the three plays together create a highly ambitious, brilliantly innovative, breathtaking, energizing, multi-layered theatrical experience. Simultaneously, three interconnected stories unfold on three different stages from different points of view – with the same fourteen actors flinging their characters from one to the other to appear in scenes in all three scenes, sometimes in a leading role, sometimes in a supporting role. Luckily the audience stopped. Each slice can stand on its own, but seeing all three in one day certainly brings greater, rewarding depth and extra-rich, cat-in-the-cream satisfaction.
Each of the venues (not too far away!) offers a very different stage space and ambiance. rock takes place on the glorious expanse of The Crucible’s thrust stage, paper next door at The Lyceum, a beautifully renovated Victorian theater with a traditional proscenium. scissors simultaneously comes to life in The Crucible Studio, an intimate jewel of a 400-seat amphitheater housed in the Grade II listed Crucible building, where the main auditorium seats almost a thousand people on three sides, no more than 20 meters from the action.
All three stories depict the conflict, confusion and complications that arise after a traditional Sheffield shears maker dies (apparently without a will) and his family and small workforce are at odds over the factory’s future (a bit a la Kinky boots). Playwright Chris Bush hails from the City of Steel herself, making her a daughter of the City of Precision, a lifetime of steel scissors. your living masterpiece, Stand at the edge of the sky, set in Sheffield’s famous Park Hill Flats, was a sensational success (and will be playing again next winter); now yes, Scissors stone paper also emerges triumphant scissors well deserved his standing ovation. Again, the work is vibrant, beautifully staged, and full of layers of interest and intrigue.
Humor plays a big part in all the plays, a comical ongoing farce of mistaken identities playing a prominent role, but serious themes and hobbies also play a big part – and lots of them. Different viewpoints, visions, passions, misunderstandings and vulnerabilities stem from young, old and middle characters, influenced by their different gender partnerships, family relationships, budding romances, backgrounds, past experiences, hopes, ambitions, mental states and hidden secrets. We see how easily misunderstanding and hostility arise when individuals assume they know what another person is doing from a mere snapshot, while dense and fast-paced conversations ensue about music, capitalism, altruism, commitment, the enduring quality of the craft, the life- the affirmation of the reality of manual labour, the exploitation of apprentices, the transience of the unpossessible digital components that make up the life of a modern youth, and the destruction of the climate and environment as we constantly fuel vast, energy-guzzling databases to compose them to feed digital habits. Einstein gets a lot of plugs for his theory of thermodynamics about the conservation and transformation of a finite amount of energy; then there is philosophy and Heidegger, and Shakespeare Sonnet 59Preachers and a season for everything, plus Picasso and the conundrum of whether metaphors really are the bee’s knees or don’t hold water at all.
in the rock, all fourteen characters are featured, but the main focus is aging rocker Susie Spenser (no, not Quatro), played admirably by Denise Black as brash, aggressive and planing – but ultimately not hard-hearted. Susie is determined to use her limited energies to transform the factory site into a cathedral of music that she considers her legacy for future generations. Longtime friend Leo (Andrew MacBean), patient, understanding, easygoing, reasonable and, as he puts it, boring, is always by her side. Actor Leo Wan joins in to add subtle humor as the baffled, awkward Xander, corporate design consultant (that’s real estate agent), mistaken for famous photographer Billy, played by Alastair Natkiel with natural ease.
On the Crucible stage, Ben Stones’ set creates a vast, abandoned factory building with bulky radiators, piles of boxes and clutter underneath, and broken, debris-strewn, corrugated Plexiglas roof panels above that everyone claims let in a special quality of light. Surely this space is ideal for loud music, flashing lights and exciting choreographed mayhem to explode on stage! It is, and it does – more than once and to stunning, uplifting effect. But as in all plays, there are also quiet, wordy scenes with extended dialogues. Sometimes we feel like we’re treading on the same water, but the logistics of other characters being on different stages probably calls for it.
in the lyceum, paper takes place in the office of serious manager and former Canary Wharf fortune-maker Omar (Guy Rhys), who doesn’t dare face the truth. Janet Bird’s fabulous set has cluttered his office with a typical lush clutter of yesteryear, an authentic jumble of boxes, files, loo roll, lamps, vacuum cleaners and discarded junk that almost buries desks. Leaves dangle beautifully from paperwork and swirl to infinity and beyond through the space above the set. With somewhat limited physical activity, but by no means complete, it’s more words and papers than dance and song, though bickering pop duo CocodaMol (not to be confused with CalPol or ParacetoMol) make an appearance, and Coco and Molly play admirably demonstratively and over-the-top by Chanel Waddock and Daisy May reveal more of themselves. In this play, however, the focus is on the lesbian couple Faye (Samantha Power), the deceased’s indecisive stepdaughter, and her deceptively efficient, organized, and determined partner, Mel (Natalie Casey), whose vision is to sell the site housing and provide for a secure future for their children. The two were only seen superficially rock But now, a deeper look into their minds and souls reveals that they are not really what they first appeared. We also learn more about Zara (Lucie Shorthouse), manager Omar’s PhD daughter, who runs the company’s IT for free and sings great rock.
In the Crucible Studios amphitheater, Natasha played Jenkins’ impressive set design scissors nested us in a small scissor factory where the 4 remaining low paid young apprentices work old fashioned woodworking jobs, using old fashioned utensils and machines (which actually work!) while assembling, sharpening, polishing and checking the precision of their hand made scissors (smaller pairs, rather than the larger, heavier ones that used to be more common). They don’t want the factory to close.
Taking full advantage of this intimate space, as well as the steps, aisles and chairs between and around the audience, the young actors put on superb performances, their characters as real as the delicious, authentic smell emanating from the grinding wheel when sparks fly and metal hot becomes . The resolute dynamism and passion of Ava (Dumile Sabana) and Liv (Maia Tamrakar) – Ava’s character is shy – is wonderful to behold. Every interaction between these two and from/with the two young men is great (though liberally embellished with “f” words). Eventually, secrets well hidden beneath the surface come out to surprise us all. even the quiet, well-behaved Trent (Joe Usher) is repressing something; such is the grumpy, paranoid, demure, scathing, humorless, and utterly disagreeable Mason, a fabulous personality created by Jabez Sykes (a diamond in the rough with the comic brilliance of Mackenzie Crook’s Gareth in The office). A spontaneous standing ovation is the reward for the rousing energy and tremendously moving emotional involvement they evoke.
Sheffield Theaters form the largest regional theater complex outside of London and have been awarded regional theater of the year four times. The crucible of The Crucible in particular brings dazzling versatility and grandeur to any genre of drama or musical and of course is internationally revered as the premier venue for the World Snooker Championships. The stunning production of Pi’s life alone won 4 British theater awards. Maybe the theater first Scissors stone paper will add to the balance sheet.
Full of dynamism, warmth, humor, interest, intrigue and grandiose all-round acting, this admirable, engaging creation is no mere gimmick. It works excellently – in three ways.
Eileen Caiger Gray
The show runs through July 2nd.
STONE, PAPER, SCISSORS at SHEFFIELD THEATER JUNE 22, 2022
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