Arriving fresh-faced from Dorset, young sixth-form group Harpoon present their take on Oliver Lansley’s hilarious play
The irreverent idea of using glowing balloon eyes for Lansley’s tongue-in-cheek Greek chorus is an excellent and entertaining innovation.
This isn’t for lack of trying. A lot of the show works very well and has had a great deal of thought put into it. For instance, the irreverent idea of using glowing balloon eyes for Lansley’s tongue-in-cheek Greek chorus is an excellent and entertaining innovation. Bert Evans-Bevan puts in a great performance as Gary Goodman, nailing the right amount of cringe-worthy awkwardness to make the part truly come to life. William Ellis Hancock as Michael is also entertaining throughout.
More needs to be done however on the chemistry and comic timing between the actors. Georgina James, Jacob Lane and Finlay Thomson as Mia, Gabriel and Lucifer respectively are all very good individually but they don’t gel quite as well together. Mainly it comes from a lack of variation; jokes and retorts are often delivered in the same way between the group – funny the first two times perhaps, but not the third. Sometimes it feels like the actors aren’t necessarily listening and reacting organically to each other, but are instead simply reciting a well-prepared line. As a result, a fair few jokes fall flat.
Being a preview performance, there is time for the cast to work out these kinks, as well as the few issues with the lighting and sound that presented themselves. Perhaps somewhat harder to change is a few directorial decisions that feel like they’ve come straight from the classroom. It feels at times like the actors have been encouraged to study the ‘themes’ of the play in an overly structured and forced manner, as one would in a GCSE English Lit exam. As such, there are dramatic shifts in tone as we switch between forced comedic farce and equally forced dramatic moments where we’re meant to sympathise with Mia’s plight, which is never quite pulled off. It’s possible that this is down to cuts to the original script to make it fit into its Fringe slot. Nevertheless, the director should trust the script more, allowing subtlety to help some of the more understated comedy and moral messages come to the fore, rather than just forcing the issue.
There’s clearly potential quality talent on display here however. With the experience of performing Immaculate at the Edinburgh Fringe under their belt, Harpoon may well return in future years with something slightly more polished and honed.