Seven Devils

Executed by student acting troupe The Hurtwood Corner from performing arts college Hurtwood House, Seven Devils is a play exploring the trials of down-on-their-luck Manhattan residents in the 1920s, centred around their local speakeasy. This promising set-up is unfortunately let down by some laboured writing, contrived plot points and some slightly faltering New York accents.

An exciting hour of drama and mystery

The show starts with a tableau of all seven characters who each step forward intoning which deadly sin they represent with sultry lighting and music backing them. This sums up a lot of the play – well-directed but with heavy-handed writing. Many of the characters almost seem caricatured: there’s a country girl who’s come to the big city, a mafia boss’ wife and a barman who has ‘the red devil’ (anger, if that was too subtle) inside him. The first scene contains a fair amount of clunky exposition, but overall the narrative runs well, getting straight into the action and capturing the audience’s attention.

Boasting ‘authentic’ music and dance, the scenes are interspersed with songs about loss of innocence (sung fantastically) and dances which seem less ‘authentic’ and more interpretive. The acting itself is something of a mixed bag. The cast seem to revel in the more dramatic moments of the plot, but some fail to look physically comfortable during the straightforward dialogue. One stand-out character is Dolores who, despite the small role, is the most present and realistically performed throughout. Fantastic moments also come from the actors playing Jack and Grant – the latter delivers an impassioned monologue which brought a tear to my eye and the former’s last moments on stage are incredibly powerful.

This show is generally very good, however there are moments which stand out as simply bizarre, such as a lack of reaction or even acknowledgment at one of the character’s apparent suicide attempt. If this was trying to convey the selfish, amoral tone of the play, it seems an odd way of doing so.

Seven Devils is a good show performed by some talented young actors. Despite its faults, the production never dragged and had some thrilling moments. Seven Devils would have benefitted from more attention to detail in all areas but this was an exciting hour of drama and mystery. 

Reviews by Caitlin Rebecca

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The Blurb

'We’ll do what we always do. Business as usual.' 1929, New York: dangerous, debauched, degenerate. On the cusp of an economically extirpated America, the city’s most desperate cling to their thrones of sin, combatting life’s trials and tribulations as they struggle to pay the prodigious cost for survival that Prohibition America demands of them. Rooted in its historical setting, this play in one act follows seven people's innate wickedness as it dismantles the delusional glamour of the decade and presents instead a gritty and real interpretation of the time in which gangsters and delinquents were heralded as kings.