Dying For It – student theatre at its best

1082643_10151980423318091_1946713722_nNEVER let it be mistook, this is student theatre; the staging, whilst impressive for the budget the crew were working on, is still very clearly within a local hall. Some of the doors don’t shut properly and the lighting occasionally doesn’t fully work. All things considered though, if we are to take this as a production by students, it is very impressive.

Dying For It is a loose adaptation by Moira Buffini of Nikolai Erdman’s The Suicide, a play that was banned in 1932 under the Soviet regime only to be rediscovered by Radio 3 in 1978. It follows Semyon Semyonovich, a man who wants to die, and the people who want him to die for their cause. It is a black comedy, bleak in the most Russian sense of the word, but it is nicely undercut by its deft balance of high farce and sincere emotion.

The entire cast under the direction of Leah Carroll put in strong work. Daniel Abbott ably handles his lead role even when the first half seems to write him into a single-note rut; he helps to break it, and there is strong comedic support from Laura Hunt and Truan Evans as two people with a strong stake in Semyon’s suicide.

The most commendable performance is almost certainly that of Semyon’s long suffering wife Mashenka, as played by Susan Monkton. (Spoiler alert) Just after she hears of the death of her husband, there is a moment where Ms Monkton was required to break down, collapse to the floor and cry. There is nothing funny about the moment; with no quips to undercut proceedings it demands a lot from the actor, but she managed not only to convince, but to supremely sell the moment providing a fine antithesis to the near-camp silliness of most of the play.

Where the production has some faults, they are drawn from the text. Buffini’s script, in an eagerness to show a certain stupidity ingrained in society, creates a rolling troupe of actors who attempt to convince Semyon of their cause. While each scene works individually, when put together it can start to feel heavily repetitive as if it is a parade of ‘Semyon meets another wacky character’ moments. But the piece is more than the sum of its parts.

The Nomadic Players are renowned for producing high quality work like this frequently and it shows as it was recently announced that the show will be transferred to Liverpool for a performance. If you happen to be in Liverpool on April 19th, I’d recommend seeing it.