There are few redeeming features to be found in Steven Dykes’ new play Glockenspiel. It is lacking in the subtle nuance, witty dialogue and/or exciting spectacle which, in my mind at least, has come to characterise excellent new writing. Glockenspiel, on the other hand, takes the audience on a journey beyond the realms of the dull. It is a play marred by obscurity and lethargy from the start.
The first scene – one which should have been pithy, enticing, and gripping – dwells on an insignificant point for far longer than necessary and does little to set up the characters, their relationships, or their purpose within the overall play. Subsequent scenes are a little better, but by this time, the damage has been done; there is little point in an opening which needlessly labours on, adding nothing. The whole thing lacks rhythm and structure; it seems a far cry from what I would term ‘pacey’ as it trundles along, meandering from one idea to the next.
The main plot centres around families of fallen soldiers and their ideas about how their loved ones truly died; as a premise this has potential, but unfortunately the lack of subtlety in the writing’s execution leads to glaringly obvious hints dropped from the off – it would be better to credit audiences with a little intellect and let them ‘figure it out’ for themselves, and cast their own aspersions on the veracity of the symbolic institution.
Characters and their interwoven relations seemed thoroughly underdeveloped, though perhaps this was at least in part down to the acting which, unfortunately, is of dubious quality. Gabbled enunciation and suspect accents are the prime causes for distress, and the only part of the play with a modicum of cleverness – a scene which might have been very telling of a strained and multi-faceted relationship – is totally butchered by the actors who couldn’t handle the text. Perhaps we can blame this on opening-night-nerves, but really, it made for a bit of an awkward watch. For a play which is so concerned with relationships, those which should have been filled to the brim with life and vigour are so underacted that they appear stale. Few of the actors seem to actually act for the duration; there is a rampant lack of command over basic metrical regulation and, in some cases, a misunderstanding over the very concept and use of vocal expression. An exception is Katie Glaister as widow Eloise, who puts on an admirable performance and she, at least, has a handle on her accent.
The design is rather unremarkable; an excess of symbolic movement of chairs back and forth and the like distracts and adds nothing to the piece. It could have been far more adventurous but it plays very safe and very arbitrary.
Writing, acting and design as a whole are mediocre at best, but at least they gave it a go.
Glockenspiel is playing Tristan Bates Theatre until January 14.
Photo: Michael O’Reilly