Academy of Risk

Academy of Risk explores the tremendous pressure placed on students through their own eyes. This ensemble piece - performed by a young, talented cast of fifteen - looks at the most high-pressure academic scenarios and how they are dealt with.

Impressively, they’ve also made a decent show.

The plot is well-structured, with a variety of connected character arcs. All these arcs are thought through, with an introduction, conflict and the change brought on by that. But this is done in the space of a 40-minute script, meaning that those arcs are almost always too underdeveloped to bear higher significance.

The presentation, on the other hand, is excellent. Using boxes, bodies, and various props, all the major locations are realised. The physical theatre elements are tight, quick and well-choreographed. The coolest part is that one surface of the boxes works as a chalkboard, an intelligent use of available material. The occasional Brechtian chanting and repetition is employed, to little dramatic effect, but usually it is used just to fill a scene change, which the technique accomplishes well.

With younger actors, a broader range of ability is the norm. In Academy of Risk, all the actors play strong archetypes, but to different degrees of success. I liked James Stevenson, whose extreme poshness was a joy, and Annabel Mackinlay, whose voice, aided by a subtle microphone, was haunting and impressively mature. Others were less impressive. I saw potential in Gabriel Vyvan’s physicality, but as a central character, it was disappointing that he got so little dialogue, making him hard to like.

From the Writer’s Note and what I saw on stage, it was clear that Academy of Risk was created with a number of goals in mind. It needed to suit a large cast, let them all use their talents, and be done in less than an hour. Stargaze Theatre has done that. Impressively, they’ve also made a decent show.

Reviews by Bennett Bonci

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The Blurb

This is the story of a school deep in the heart of Cornwall, whose students would rather hang out in an old storeroom than face the Head. These pupils know that, sometimes, when the system gets you down, a touch of escapism is the only answer. This is the story they aren’t allowed to tell: an unusual book is discovered in the library of an old house by the sea, the new initiates of The Academy are inspired to dare each other into doing increasingly dangerous activities, until eventually one of them takes a step too far...