Tag Archives: The Nose

WSAF 2011

around Warwick University campus, Saturday 25th June to Tuesday 26th June 2011

It’s difficult to sum up a festival in a single review after experiencing a body of work which spans multiple themes, tones and times. Warwick Student Arts Festival 2011 showcased the very best talent that Warwick has to offer, and after a collection of theatre shows which have this year been somewhat depressing, the (mostly) joyful tone of the productions on show this weekend was simply refreshing.

2011 was certainly the actor’s year at WSAF. The majority of theatre shows performed were written plays which focussed on language and narrative rather than concept and ideas. Saturday saw productions of Patrick Marber’s Closer directed by Kate Graves and Kieran Lucas, and Edward Davis’ take on The Caretaker. The former, an intricately structured comment on the futility of human relationships, offered a calmly bleak view on how fallible each and every one of us is, while Pinter’s masterpiece was handled with sensitivity and humour in equal measure.

Over the following days productions of Oleanna, Death and the Maiden, God of Carnage and The Importance of Being Earnest were performed, reminding us (and me particularly) that there’s sometimes nothing better than a good script well-performed.

The student written plays proved that Warwick is the breeding ground for some great British playwrights; although About Ghosts and If Only To Dream need a lot of work, Charlie Morton’s With Will, an imagined thirty minute discussion between Shakespeare and Middleton, and Thom May’s extraordinary CLM both showcased genuine talent. May’s script mixed the tragic with the comic perfectly, giving a portrayal of office politics like nothing I’ve ever seen on stage. Josh Roche’s The Nose finished off the festival with absurdity and wackiness.

Musical theatre also had a good showing at this year’s WSAF. Aside from the frankly ridiculous but hilariously ironic Anyone Can Whistle (Sondheim’s tragic show; the less said about that the better), we were also shown David Levesley & Laura Hunt’s FML: The Musical and the as-always-professional MTW Weekend Show. For such a speedily put together show, FML has a huge amount of potential, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to go on to bigger and better things. Pastiching theatre of all forms and taking a tongue-in-cheek look at university life, Levesley’s script left not one audience member stern-faced. The MTW Weekend Show was equally good fun, lending some spectacle and pizazz to the festival with the best singers and dancers Warwick Drama has to offer.

Due to personal preferences and availability, it was difficult for me to watch anything that wasn’t of the theatrical ilk, but the choice of performances on offer was varied, meaning if you prefer dance or comedy there was always something going on. Special mention must go to Meg Price and Richard Potter, the co-ordinators of this huge event, and Lilith Brewer and Beccy Ward for taking charge of programming. I for one was reminded not to be so serious and remembered that it’s possible to simply sit back and enjoy yourself when at the theatre.

“The Nose”

based on the short story by Nikolai Gogol

adapted by Josh Roche

at Warwick Arts Centre, Tuesday 28th June 2011

Often, the way in which a story is told can be far more interesting than the tale itself. The thrust of a plot can be dreadful, but if  we are interested in the craft of the narration an audience’s attention can be held nonetheless. Such is the case with Fat Git Theatre’s production of The Nose, which, aware of the thinness of the story it tells, manages to find intrigue in bravado and absurdity.

There isn’t much more to the plot other than the fact that Kovalyov loses his nose and finds that it manages to gain higher status than he. It is a wonderfully surreal story, and Gogol makes no attempt to give any explanation. Josh Roche’s text relishes the inconclusive nature of Gogol’s story and adds in a narrator – the Beast – and his aide – Stick – who are the audience’s way in.

The sheer theatricality of The Nose is what makes it such a success. It is so aware of itself that we are not once asked to believe in a word that is being said. Typified by the delineation of a white sheeted playing space outside of which actors remain neutral, we are constantly reminded we are watching a performance. Paints of various colours are splashed onto the white backdrop, transforming the stage from dull autonomy to diverse vibrancy, and music created from scissors and newspaper accompanies the mechanical pysicality.

The ensemble of actors embody the absurdism on show, inhabiting grotesque and inhuman characters, thus furthering the idea that we enjoy the telling of a story and not the tale itself. Joe Boylan as the weak Yakovlevich creeps across the stage; his physicality is mesmerising to watch. The decision to cast Kovalyov as a woman is interesting; at first it seems bizarre but it’s clear that the lost nose is a symbol of being emasculated. Kate Pearse bumbles along as the protagonist, and Shubham Saraf as Stick is the emobidment of Roche’s style. I wonder slightly, however, about the decision to portray Tom Syms’ characters as more human; when he is on stage his less grotesque persona doesn’t quite chime with the overall feel.

The current production of The Government Inspector at the Young Vic tries so hard to be surreal and real that the two worlds collide without having any coherence. What Roche has discovered is the importance of taking Gogol’s work with a very large pinch of salt, and he succeeds where Richard Jones failed. This is a beautifully original production from an up and coming theatre company, and is bound to be a hot ticket at Edinburgh later this year.