Although it may not feel much like it yet, Spring is coming, bringing with it life and rejuvenation. If you are struggling to find that in the darkness of Week 2, then you really should have attended the Marlowe Society’s second HATCH night of the year, which presented eight bright new fluffy pieces of theatre, freshly hatched from the eggs of Cambridge’s best undiscovered creatives.

Opening the night was a period piece written by Thomas Whittaker, which set the death of Marshal Tito against a football match between Hajduk Split and Red Star Belgrade. Through a combination of radio commentary, delivered with terrifying rapidity by Sophie Stemmons (perhaps losing a little comprehensibility, however), dialogue in the stands between two spectators, and finally the pitch-side speech of the referee, Whittaker navigated the juxtaposition between domestic football rivalries, and unified nationalist feeling. I did however question some of the directorial choices for this play, which did not take best advantage of the actors’ ability.

The second piece was an excerpt from Joe Wills’ play The Deep, a dystopian look at a post-climate-apocalypse near future and its effect on a sleepy town on the Norfolk coast. While the idea behind the play was interesting, I wasn’t sure if Wills had chosen the best section to showcase it – Iona Rogan, playing the protagonist, was left on stage, standing doing nothing while other characters entered and exited in a stilted way. Rogan did seem to have a strong connection with the material and conveyed her character’s personality with nuance and sophistication in the brief time allotted. A different extract from the play would perhaps have better conveyed the relationships between characters, as well as the surrealism of the play overall.

Charlie Bentley-Astor presented an intimate monologue, describing a sexual assault on the London Underground. I was shocked by the lack of content warning for this piece, which described the incident in some detail, as well as vividly describing the difficulty of negotiating the Underground as an autistic person. Candance Ware negotiated the difficult material with grace, a strong improvement from her awkward performance as a small child in the previous piece.

The night took a turn for the bizarre with Emily Swettenham’s The Man with No Name, in which debut performer Teo Krivosic gave a totally unhinged and hilarious performance as the eponymous Man, who lives in a bothy somewhere in the Scottish highlands and delivers absurd monologues, sometimes to unsuspecting travellers. I would like to see much more from its lead actor, and its writer, both of whom have a huge amount to give to the Cambridge theatre scene.

With such a variety of writing styles, staging choices and performances it is difficult to come to an overall judgement about HATCH as a night

What night of student theatre would be complete without a political satire? Fabienne Marshall delivered this with House of Lemons, which thankfully approached contemporary political events with a little more intelligence than usual. The play predicted Britain’s lack of citrus fruit in the Brexit fallout – a terrifying prospect indeed, and used wordplay and quick-witted one-liners to great effect. Particular praise should go to Jonny Wiles, whose Boris Johnson impression was spot-on and funny. The framing of this scene didn’t make a lot of sense, however, and there were actors on stage not really doing anything – I wonder if this was the fault of a poorly chosen extract, or not enough thought put into adapting a longer piece to the showcase time-frame?

After five performances you might expect that I would have been getting a little tired of the evening, as you no doubt are getting tired of the lengthiness of this review. But my fears were put to rest with the next play, an untitled monologue written by Charis Taplin and performed by Christoph Marshall. Marshall delivered easily the most assured performance of the night, perfectly delivering Taplin’s beautifully rambling prose – an extraordinary character study which ranged effortlessly from the celestial to the sinful and back again. Taplin mentioned in her opening statement that she was unsure whether to transpose this speech into the opening of a novel – while I would certainly buy the novel, she should feel no great need to alter this piece – it was mature, witty, and clever, and I cannot wait to either read her full manuscript, or see the completed play performed in the near future.

The penultimate excerpt once again took to the realm of period drama, as Alex Lindsay reinterpreted the reign of Henry VIII’s often forgotten fifth wife as The Brief and Tragic Reign of Katherine Howard, in a fresh adaptation with echoes of the West End musical Six. All the performances were strong here, but Laura Moss as the new queen herself was the standout performer, speaking to the audience in speeches that were part Shakespearean aside, part Love Island confessional. Comic interpretations of historical events are such a well-established genre that they can be hard to get right, and delightful if done well – this is the latter, and I would have loved to see how Lindsay approached Katherine’s fall and eventual execution. The fact that Moss stole the show does, however, demonstrate that the three supporting characters, courtiers vying for influence, could have benefitted from further work, both in terms of the script and in terms of the performances, which were hindered by awkward blocking.


Mountain View

Effie’s got something to say in Iphigenia in Splott

The night concluded with N-Town, an interpretation of a medieval mystery play by Anna Bullard, which set the life of the Virgin Mary in America, with Mary herself a manipulated child pageant star, and the Angel Gabriel a Harvey Weinstein-type. The rich potential and slightly problematic nature of this concept didn’t seem fully explored, and although I am assured the script was written in verse, echoing the original medieval manuscript, one of the three actors evidently did not know their lines and let the performance down. This was a disappointment, especially when the aim was not to be word perfect but to showcase new student writing. It was a real shame to see such an interesting play fall flat, and I hope Bullard continues with this work, and the actors do not feel discouraged by unfortunate circumstance.

With such a variety of writing styles, staging choices and performances it is difficult to come to an overall judgement about HATCH as a night. While there were great fluctuations in standard, it was evident to me that all of the writers, performers and directors have great potential and that these are exciting works in the process of development. At some point, I have no doubt that these newly hatched chicks will be ready to soar.

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