Gotcha

Theatre can only ask us to suspend disbelief to a certain point. Reading University Drama Society’s production of Gotcha, Barry Keefe’s 1977 play, asks us to suspend that belief too far – transforming Keefe’s powerful script into an unrealistic piece of drama that barely makes logical sense.

Gotcha revolves around an anonymous ‘Kid’ who on her last day of school manages to keep various members of school staff hostage in a storage room where she conveniently left her motorcycle. The Kid threatens to set the fuel stored in the motorcycle alight, which would lead to the motorcycle exploding and killing them all. To do this, however, she must drop her lighter into the motorcycle’s fuel cabinet. In order to keep the situation consistent and the stakes obviously high, she must always be in easy reach of the motorcycle; to be honest, she must never leave the motorcycle’s side. Sadly, RUDS’ production is infuriating to watch as this simple rule is violated throughout most of the piece. The Kid wanders all over the stage, leaving me completely bemused – why would the teachers not simply grab her?

The direction in places renders the piece wholly unbelievable, with the cast delivering their most powerful lines at points where the Kid obviously had no power over the situation at all; for example Ton threatening serious violence when he could have easily carried it out – the Kid was nowhere near the bicycle and he could’ve simply punched her. The script only makes sense if the Kid could blow them up at any moment, the dialogue is crafted so the stakes are always this high, yet in RUDS’ production she is usually not in a position to do so and hence the scenario becomes drastically unrealistic. When we finally do see the violence that would have realistically come far earlier it is again impossibly unrealistic, poorly directed and clearly under-rehearsed. The claustrophobia and difficulty of the script requires very precise and intelligent direction; sadly this production lacks that necessity.

The acting is not much better than the direction, with hardly any cast member engaging with the subtle characterisation of Keefe’s writing and instead reverting to stereotypes. Certain moments of the play remind me of a GCSE drama piece; complete with a disregard for emotional depth, lack of any tonal variation and fury denoted by half hearted foot stamping. Jenny Jope, playing Lynne, is the only actor who seems to engage with the material providing some moments of relief - however her relationship with Ton is impossible to believe from the onset and ultimately one actor is not enough to save a sinking ship.

All in all, Gotcha is a poorly directed and badly performed production of a great play.

Reviews by Zoe Hunter Gordon

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Performances

The Blurb

Explores the actions of a disillusioned and desperate kid who accidentally takes the teachers hostage on the last day of school. Delving into the realities of life after education, Gotcha challenges authority and aggression in the classroom. www.ruds.co.uk

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