Kate Rowland reviews a Goldsmiths Drama Society production of ‘Staircases’, directed by Charlotte Winstone.
The Stretch, 1st May 2015
Whether it’s tackling awkward first dates, first glances, or a well kept secret, ‘Staircases’ is unshakeably honest. Comprised of scenes written by Laurie Ogden, Maeve Tierney, Gabriel Jones and Caolan Blaney, and directed by Charlotte Winstone, ‘Staircases’ is on course for the Edinburgh Fringe this August. Despite some minor hiccups in the scratch performance at The Stretch on the first of May, this was an otherwise polished, funny and moving piece.
‘Staircases’ interconnects scenes of teenage awkwardness with scenes which resonate with pain and longing. Whether we’re sympathising with the teacher who just wishes her students would apply themselves (and smoke better hash), or the teenage girl (played by Cara Withers) wrestling with telling her mother that she had an abortion, ‘Staircases’ is wonderfully written and captivatingly performed. Bartholomew Gwynn executes a heartrending monologue as Jamie, a man deliberating over whether to tell his girlfriend he has Chlamydia. The combination of humour with the shock and dismay when he makes his decision is hard hitting.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that our insecurities and our fears are entirely our own, and yet ‘Staircases’ rings true because in their speeches and their thoughts, the characters prove that this uncertainty is experienced by everyone. This is particularly apparent in the scenes featuring Tash and James, two people who share a painfully awkward conversation in the library and an equally embarrassing first date. Laurie Ogden and Joe Gibbings have wonderful chemistry on stage playing this shy, insecure couple tiptoeing around love. It’s a common situation made exciting through the moments when the characters voice their thoughts and fears to the audience.
Internal monologue is utilized wonderfully, either through another actor physically embodying the character’s thoughts, or by allowing moments where the characters step out of the action and express these thoughts verbally. The audience is given a wonderful insight into their minds; Bartholomew Gwynn, barefoot and leaping around the stage, embodies the sexual thoughts of a man as he chats to his patronising psychiatrist. The heartbreaking speech about unrequited love performed by Jen Wakely is painful because the experiences it recounts are so real. Seeing a character behave strangely around someone they’re attracted to, asking themselves questions that no one else will ever hear, or just acknowledging that they want more than friendship; this is what makes ‘Staircases’ so important. It’s poignant, witty and most importantly, it feels real.
Good theatre brings something unexpected. It doesn’t have to be profound or life-changing; sometimes it’s as simple as realising that you are not alone. The great thing is, at one time or another we will have all felt the same way as one of the characters in ‘Staircases’. If you’ve ever missed your chance to talk to that person in the library, or at the bus stop, or let a perfect moment disappear because you just weren’t ready, or if like Jane (‘Sex Goddess!’), you just wish that people would see you as you see yourself, then you are not alone. As each character makes their silent exit from the stage at the end of each scene, it feels strangely as though you have lost a friend.
Like all things Goldsmiths, ‘Staircases’ screams of a desire to be heard. The writing is bright, it’s original, and if all goes well, ‘Staircases’ will be showcasing its amazing array of talent at the Edinburgh Fringe this August.
The cast are also performing at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art on 7th August. For more information on how to support Antonym Theatre and their journey to the fringe, find them on Facebook ‘Antonym Theatre’ or follow them on Twitter @AntonymTheatre.