It’s been over one year since I started at the University of York – how fast did that go by?! When I first started, the Department of Theatre, Film and Television’s theatre society Platform produced lots of cool shows that I marvelled at and was inspired by. Now, almost a year after I reviewed their excellent production of On Ego, I’m reviewing their latest show: Moira Buffini’s Dying For It, an adaptation of Nikolai Erdman’s The Suicide, which had its premiere at London’s Almeida Theatre a few years back.
Dying For It brings us into the world of Semyon Semyonovich (David Bolwell), whose wife Masha (Georgie Wilmer) is the sole breadwinner of the overcrowded house they live in, and is struggling to make ends meet against the backdrop of a cold, 1920s Russia. When his guilt overcomes him and he realises he’s pushing his wife to the limit, he decides to take his own life. But before he can put the gun to his head, an array of characters come to his side and ask him to do it to further their causes. Cue the entrance of Aristakh (Oliver Henn), a member of the intelligentsia, people’s postman Yegor (Andy Watts), romantic bombshell Kleopatra (Jess Jane), corrupt priest Father Yelpidy (Josh Welch) and Marxist wordsmith Viktor (James Ralph). Throw into the mix Semyon’s monster mother-in-law Serafima (Hollie Whelan), his friend Alexander (Ted Sager) and local tart/café owner Margarita (Tara Geraghty), and you’ve got one of the most comically diverse melting pot of characters that you’ve ever seen.
Platform provides a unique opportunity to the students here in TFTV – it acts as a vessel for their creative ideas. They allow students to pitch shows in production teams, and put them on in various spaces in the building. In this instance, third year WDP student Annlouise Butt pitched as director for Dying For It to be performed in the Large Rehearsal Room. You would have thought that this relatively small space wouldn’t be suitable for shows of this scale, but it works surprisingly well.
A simplistic set made up of a back wall with a few spaces, which act as doors for characters to enter and exit from, along with a bed in the middle of the space, keeps us focused on Buffini’s farcical narrative, and on the variety of well-crafted characters. Each of the visiting representatives has a unique and different energy, which sets them apart from one another and provides a lovely sense of dynamism to the piece. Add into the mix some superb comic timing, and you’re adding even more awesome ingredients to that melting pot I mentioned earlier.
There were a few times when I thought that moments were perhaps dragged out a little too long, and somewhat devoid of overall energy and atmosphere in the scene. This is mainly due to the lack of music to provide that bit extra in terms of light, shade and mood – but this is pretty infrequent, and the comic performances of each character more than make up for it. The characters are what truly steal the show here, so much so that lighting and sound don’t make too much of an impact on how you perceive the piece – they merely come in whenever necessary to enhance your enjoyment of watching them.
Dying For It is another excellent Platform production. It’s hilarious, well-designed and well-directed, with a striking attention to detail and some delightfully playful moments that provide you with laugh after laugh. It’s a quality, fun and well-crafted piece of theatre.
Dying For It played at the Large Rehearsal Room in the University of York’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television until 1 November. For more information, please visit the University of York TFTV website. Photo: Gavin Pattison.