A Pupil at Park Theatre
Have you ever heard the tale of the once great artist turned contemptible drunk who forms an unlikely bond with a stubborn, rowdy teenager? This narrative survives because it offers a space to dream in offering that much-sought-after wisdom from unlikely people. A Pupil retells such a tale. Jesse Briton’s play features a depressed, alcoholic, physically impaired musical genius whose faltering will to live is revived by a spoilt rich kid with hidden talent.
It soon becomes clear that Ye’s (Lucy Sheen) depression is what is keeping her bound to her wheelchair much more than her physical impairment. She rises from the chair on to clutches and eventually walks slowly across the stage as she moulds and perfects her musical protégé, Simona (Flora Spencer-Longhurst). Even more crippling, however, is Briton’s writing which lacked any hint of wisdom, beyond the blasé comments about the lingering question of talent or discipline. Not missing the stereotypes, the play came complete with an arrogant and unruly Russian billionaire’s teenage daughter – with the thick accent – and a credulous and clueless gospel-singing black woman (Melanie Marshall).
The amalgamation of modern writing and classical sound worked well, despite its shortcomings, as some funny moments interwoven with Spencer-Longhurst’s “am I bothered?” attitude blended well with the mesmerising melody of the violin.
The setting of the play in the small bedsit of a woman bound to a chair did not make sense in the round stage which offered many blind-spots, revealing a lack of thought in Jessica Daniel’s direction. However, though the play did not succeed in terms of writing and direction, it had an interesting set design with violins hovering over their heads as if a cloud persistently asking whether talent has value without discipline or if discipline [implied by the Conservatoire] will drain out talent as Ye pleads, “they’ll turn you into a machine”.
The all-female cast with their exceptional range of talent – from Marshall’s soothing voice to Sheen’s devastating vengeance against fate and Caroline Backhouse’s proud discipline, and to Spencer-Longhurst’s violin playing – could bring even a limp script to dance.
Photo: Meurig Marshall
A Pupil is at Park Theatre from 31st October until 24th November 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for A Pupil here: