This distinct and ever-so-slightly whimsical tale follows the breakdown of a high-flying advertising executive as he becomes disillusioned with the superficial world around him and seeks to escape it. By playing an increasingly digital and promo-focused society against an individual’s desire for a more authentic existence, playwright Fin Kennedy achieves lofty comical and emotional heights. UCLU Runaground is not far behind him.
The majority of supporting characters are rightly played for the laughs to be had and the show is consistently funny while always keeping a light touch on a heartstring or two
Having seen both of the company’s outstanding Fringe offerings last summer, I was keen to see whether or not UCLU Runaground could keep up the momentum. Thankfully, the result is still an impressively high standard. The play’s director, Pavlos Christodoulou, starred in the company’s Zoo production of A View From The Bridge last year and a familiarity with the space is clear. Scene changes and entrances/exits are simple and slick, while even the multipurpose blocks of the set concord with the auditorium’s white pillars. The notes left on seats add little, though possibly something is to be said for inciting some healthy curiosity. Movement and placing of set is thoughtful, the actors are lively and versatile and one never doubts that this play has been put in very safe hands.
Karan Gill’s role as protagonist Charlie is played with a weary gusto, though his effective delivery is perhaps more suited to performance poetry than wholly believable characterisation. Gill’s strongest moments are certainly when the mainly realistic dialogue slips into more surreal and expressive uses of language, or spoken-word tirades against the dull irritations of modern life. People on the street, people on escalators, people in general: all receive apt observational scorn.
The cast’s acting is always good, if not always as gripping as it could be. The majority of supporting characters are rightly played for the laughs to be had and the show is consistently funny while always keeping a light touch on a heartstring or two, but the humour is sometimes acted in an overly casual manner, to the detriment of the production’s bold satirical offerings. Nonetheless, UCLU Runaground seems to currently be behind some of the most impressive student productions coming to the Fringe, and certainly deserve your attention.