Sunday, 29 March 2009

Gormenghast Intriguing

Hull University Drama Department
March 09

Mervyn Peake’s 1946 work Gormenghast proved an interesting choice for a Drama Department production.

The story followed the life of one Titus Groan, from his birth until his desertion of Castle Gormenghast. Titus’ fortunate life is paralleled by an ambitious ‘kitchen boy’ Steerpike, who chooses to break his mould and claw his way to power in the corrupt and largely insane household, leaving behind him a trail of destruction. I think perhaps the script relied too heavily on the audience having some prior knowledge of the story, as many of the resolutions, plot turns and even an incongruent character remained unexplained. It was distracting that the sound effects often drowned the actors, but at a push it might be supposed that this added to the chaotic and hectic spirit.

The set and costume for the show were exceptional, and the hidden on-stage orchestra contributed brilliantly to the eerie gothic element of the play. Several students made a great impression on the audience – in particular, Zoe Tempest-Jones’ portrayal of the erratic Fushia and Samuel Lannacombe Oliver’s disgruntled Barquentine captured one’s wandering interest, and Ian Farnell’s capital performance as Prunesquallor could only be faulted in that the character did not have more stage time. In the most part the cast worked well as a unit, though it does persistently disappoint in Drama Department productions that an otherwise talented cast must be punctured by the limitations of one or two oddly cast actors.

The professionalism of the Drama Department at their Mainhouse productions, particularly in Front of House and publicity continues to be impressive. Gormenghast was an interesting evening – a certain lingering air of confusion only mildly affected the entertainment.