Can anyone else believe how quick this month’s going by? I certainly can’t! Everything’s pretty much in full swing here at York, and University of York DramaSoc are on form with bringing out exciting new productions. This week in the Drama Barn is a production of Douglas Maxwell’s play Mancub, directed by Harry Ward.
Mancub brings us into the mental world of Paul (Will Heyes), who’s struggling to wade through the utter joys of adolescence that we’ve all had to experience in our lifetime. His parents are constantly banging onto him about achieving at school, his teachers are talking nonsense and he’s trying his absolute best to figure out how to get a girlfriend. But this is a story like no other. As time goes on, Paul begins to get the impression that he can turn into animals – and also perceive the animalistic qualities in those around him, from his friends to his teachers. We seem him communicate with the neighbour’s dog pretty frequently, and we can’t actually tell whether he turns into these animals or not. One thing’s for certain, though – the play strides towards an emotional climax where Paul’s world comes tumbling down as the lines between his fantasies and reality become blurred.
Mancub is an interesting twist on the typical coming-of-age story. Main character Paul speaks with a real sense of knowledge and integrity – which he keeps with him until the very end. In doing this, we empathise with him much more – and Will Heyes’s portrayal of this confident-yet-confused young teen captures the essence of the play nicely. What’s more, Elizabeth Cooke and Joel Bates are excellent multi-rolers, with both portraying a wide variety of characters that come together to flesh out Paul’s world, along with his perspective on it. They successfully portray these characters with conviction, along with wit and plenty of energy in just the right places.
There’s an interesting concept at work here, too. The Barn is converted into a literal jungle, with branches and fairy lights sprouting out of the ceiling to help reinforce the idea of Paul’s world being, you guessed it, a jungle. The performers also wear something akin to a toga/loincloth in a Tarzan-esque fashion, helping to reinforce this concept even more. Tim Kelly’s lighting design makes excellent use of the Barn’s new lighting rig, and accompanies the play’s various tones and generates several atmospheres in a pretty slick way. Simple changes in lighting do indeed alter the mood of the piece, and help to signify changes in location that blend seamlessly with the rest of the production.
Mancub is good fun; it’s funny, warm and something a bit different to the usual coming-of-age romp that’s always been popular with audiences. With a pretty dramatic conclusion that makes you stop to think for long after the lights go down, and a great set of performers and production team, this is one DramaSoc show that’s certainly worth having a look at.
Mancub played the Drama Barn until 25 October. For more information, visit the University of York DramaSoc website.