Much Obliged play featured a cast of 22
ISDS: Much Obliged
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IT was appropriate that teamwork and a sense of community was a running theme through the Inverness Student Drama Society’s second annual play Much Obliged.
On Sunday at Eden Court, the work of the 23-member society – 22 of them up acting onstage – led to the presentation of a more reality-based drama about a failing pub than last year’s fairytale-inspired debut.
And a year on, the lives in Much Obliged had moved forward a lot too.
Through a series of 12 scenes that covered a year in the life of pub Chamberlain’s, five tables of characters and the staff who served them worked through life problems – and how to save the place.
On the face of it, the usually-packed pub looked as if it should have few money worries. But as time went by, bar manager Archie (Fraser Nicol) became increasingly-worried as the future started to look bleak.
The unfolding mystery of the financial troubles was kept subtle, taking a back seat as we met the pub’s regular ‘tribes’ and watched their unfolding stories.
Frosty older woman Helen (her stiff posture from Sophie Bender perfect for suggesting a more elderly punter) had to have her G and T just so, while awaiting her granddaughter Amelia (Rachel Haston) and her terrible homebaked biscuits.
And it was easy to warm to poor Violet (Keira Smith) with her unrequited love for best friend’s brother Clive (Lewis Hann) – and her taste for spontaneous drink choices!
Clive was one of the most complex characters in the play – using his charms to wind up besotted Violet, showing a shy pal how to chat up a girl then demonstrating by trying it out on writer Daisy (Paulina Tomaszewic) to show us.
But Clive was shy about making any genuine moves on dedicated bar worker Felicity (Lilly Page), a girl he liked. And ultimately his growing maturity extended to realising he needed to get a job and also wanted to make amends for his callous treatment of Violet.
Early on, Violet responded to Maya (Crystal Galbraith) and her warning about making her affections for Clive so obvious.
But, under Clive’s spell, Violet just worried: “Are you saying Clive could never like me?”
“All you are to him at the moment is my weird friend!” warns Maya.
And one sign of how bar staff kept an eye on their punters was one exchange with Violet.
Wandering in and ordering a vodka martini, the girl behind the bar exclaimed to her: “It’s 11am!”
Winning interlocking storylines included writer Daisy originally coming to the pub to hear stories about her dead grandfather and staying to chronicle the pub’s story, two who become fundraisers for the pub and fall for each other, a couple united by puzzles and a foreign medical student who finds friends and an antidote to stress in her flatshare.
There were plenty of other life issues – we got to see shy Grace (Molly Smith) finding her feet working in the bar, despite initially underselling her employable skills to Archie, but pointing out experience working in her parents’ restaurant meant “I can talk to people!”.
We and Archie discovered that Grace was searching for freedom in the bar as much as a job and escape from the claustrophobia of working with her parents.
“I am my own person and my parents don’t listen to me. I need to be an adult!” she revealed to Archie.
The soft-hearted bar boss immediately replied: “You’ve got the job!”
He gave her a chance but quizzed by less than convinced by bar staff at his hire, Archie pointed out: “She was the only one who applied!”
Written, directed and funded by the students, the production is one that could happily travel to be performed in different communities, with enough humour and heart to hit home with a variety of audiences. The only thing is you would need a pretty big minibus to transport the 22 cast members!
But so rarely do you see a professional cast of that size, that it was a pleasure to watch the skilful direction that made the numbers work beautifully.
A convincing set had backlit shelves featuring silhouetted bottles plus tables and chairs and the pub’s name displayed above the bottles with the sophisticated device of having the changing months roll by beneath the pub name with each scene progression.
A nice line in comment came from the soundtrack – Michael Jackson’s Thriller was perfect for the successful Halloween night, I Put A Spell On You worked for Clive’s seduction demonstration with Daisy and Semisonic’s Closing Time made a wistful but hopeful endnote to the play.
This professional, engaging production is the swansong for the two founding members of the group, co-presidents Laura Walker and Rachel Haston.
The organisation has been set up to maximise the talents of all the students who are members – from writing, directing, acting, design to fundraising and organising social events. On Monday, April 29 at their AGM, the group will look back and forward and appoint a new president and other important positions.
Having seen both productions created so far, I would only look forward to whatever the third will be. MC