Alys Metcalf’s first full-length production, Unearthed, has been staged and presented by the newly formed Folio Theatre Company; and with such a strong debut show I imagine it will stand them in very good stead.
The small cast is made up of actors trained at four of the major drama schools in the UK and their fresh faces promise tons of potential when placed in the same rehearsal space, especially with a supportive team around them. Jeremy Lloyd gave a great performance as Ben. There was a depth to this character and an sincerity in the moments where he was most vulnerable, especially in the middle of the play where he has had too much to drink.
The sibling relationship, between Ben and Eliza (played by Lizzie Stables), although clearly established, could have been pushed significantly further (by playing with the back-stories of these characters) – this would have in turn really highlighted the great dynamic shifts throughout this episodic play. Stables was strong in character as her counterpart, but her delivery and intonation was at points a little clouded and confused. Embrace the moments of uncertainty in your performance, I felt the most connection to you when you did.
Alana Ramsey looked completely comfortable in her role as Daisy. The relationship between her and Ben was formed with ease and created scenes that were enjoyable to watch. Daisy’s playful nature brought moments of comedy to this piece but switched quickly as this character could regain control over a situation with just a look. Ramsey offered a strong performance dotted with emotional vulnerability.
Edward Mitchell portrays the strange lawyer, Simon; and strange certainly comes through in this performance. Mitchell’s awkward body language and demeanour on stage reinforced these character traits. I was left incredibly curious about this character after the show, and I am yet to decide whether this was because of the writing or the way the character was portrayed. Either way, a little more work on comic timing will really bring this energy further into the production.
Credit needs to go to director Kim Pearce as there were some really beautifully composed scenes throughout this piece and overall the cast formed a good ensemble. Without spoiling the design elements by describing too much, Amelia Hankin created a simple yet intricate set made of cardboard boxes, low-level lamps and a large carpet that framed the playing space. Be careful though, when the space is created so well it occasionally feels jolting when the action steps past what you create. The sound and lighting were very effective, especially so in the scenes at home and on the train. Pete Malkin’s soundscapes in particular were of note, seamlessly transporting us through the play.
So much of Unearthed relies on creating a world that we instantly believe in, and Folio Theatre does this very successfully; its design elements clearly establish that ‘material’ both personal (memories etc.) and physical (cloth or fabric) is something that can literally be unearthed and dug up. This theme is embedded throughout Metcalf’s play and the scenography quite cleverly, and a little more characterisation work could make this play really excellent.
Perhaps I was a little biased as a West Country girl myself, but I found this piece very charming and encapsulating. Very much worth a watch as Folio Theatre tours through the South West and then back in London in late May. This was the first time I had ventured down to this beautiful and intimate space as part of the New Wimbledon Studio, and I’d be excited to see more people using and supporting this venue.
Unearthed played at the Illuminate Festival at the New Wimbledon Studio and is currently on tour. For more information and tickets, see the Folio Theatre website.