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Ten minutes, Peep and Fade to Light at GibDrama Festival

DRAMA REVIEWBy C. WallThe sight of men in pants against a blank backdrop is rarely an encouraging start, and their opening protests of their existence as characters might reasonably drive an audience to pray for power cuts. Ten Minutes, written by Julian Felice and performed by him and Chris Ablitt for Bayside & Westside Drama Group, thankfully transcended itsair of student exercise. Actorly skill, combined with the ten thousand hours Mr Felice and co-director Erica McGrail must have accumulated in the theatre, ensured that the strutting and fretting of these poor players never dragged upon the stage.

Much of the writing was predictable: two characters in search of ten minutes’ material, nods to Godotand Rosencrantz, pop-existential and postmodern author killing. Success lay in the skilled management of time, as an expiring resource, a medium to punctuate gags, and finally the force that cut off the audience from the actors.Peep by Jodi Gray is driven by a creepy comic idea: what if the murky stalking of exes, that many people do through social media, instead took the physical form of a stakeout? The production, by Christian Santos for Magazine Studio Theatre and directed by Tanya Santini, was built on the week’s most arresting set, also designed by Ms Santini. Hannah Mifsud was worryingly credible as the surveillance mastermind, whose obsessive operations took the sincerity of a religious mission. The impulsiveness and visceral reactions of Britney Parody made her character more attractive, driven by her undying love for the desired object.Emphasising the odd couple claustrophobia drove the more disturbing elements into thebackground, and the women asked to join their voyeuristic project remained as indistinctas the promiscuous ex.

The result was an underwhelming finale, though in fairness theend could never be as interesting as the setup.Fade to Light, by Julian Felice for Bayside & Westside Drama Group, closed the Festival with all the brightness of safety flares released in a fireworks display because they are about to expire. The naive plot was driven by an astrophysicist’s discovery of an imminent supernova, how he communicates the news around the world, and how thesupernova’s appearance might affect a lot of people whom Guardian readers care about.Mr Felice’s knowledge of scientific practice and supernova shockwave speed might have benefitted from technical advice, but by thunder he knows how to work a multimedia stage spectacle.

He and co-director Dulcie Edwards told the story through rapidly rotating narrators, integrated with video, projected stills and moving sets, with instrumental music and unaccompanied singing. We’ve seen most of these tricks before, but it works better when the casting is stellar. Carmen Anderson, whose A-levels we must surely blame for missing the rest of the Festival, even improvised a character speech to cover a monitor failure. Natalie Bonavia, Sylvana Felice and Nikolaj Forrester commanded their respective mini-dramas, while Kaigan Garcia switched seamlessly between very different characters, and Mr Felice almost allowed us to look through his scientist’s hopeful eyes.

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