Presented against all odds as part of Cranleigh Drama’s comedy double bill for Michaelmas 2020 was The Musicians by OC Patrick Marber. The play works to craft a hilarious account of a school orchestra, who travel to Moscow to perform Tchaikovsky’s ‘Fourth Symphony’ at the European Festival of Youth. With the collaborative combination of Director; Dominique Chapman, the exquisitely enthusiastic cast and of course the marvellous work of The Cranleigh Tech Team, this production did not fail to disappoint and bring light and laughter to a time where live theatre seemed so distant.
Max C., playing the role of the Russian janitor Alex, immediately gripped the audience into the narrative, using not only his curious physicality, but intense moments of silence followed by dramatic outbursts into comical genius, in order to automatically connect the audience to his character. Throughout, Max did not fail to not only amuse, but impress the audience, through his outstanding Russian accent, and direct Russian translation! This only served to enhance the audience’s admiration for this hard-working and dedicated cast, performing for a rather tricky, socially-distanced audience. Shortly after, Charlie P.s’ adaptation of his character Roland, entered to create a comedic dynamic with Alex, through their proxemics and direct contrast in personality and character. As Roland’s frustrations rose throughout the first scene, Charlie excellently seemed to become more and more agitated, to a point of outburst, in which his awareness of the audience and his use of the stage, was truly impressive.
The dynamic between Alex and Roland was one that we watched grow and develop as the play progressed, enhancing the “feel good” nature of this performance. As the rest of the orchestra entered, the amusing quality of this play only kept increasing as we heard typical teenage disputes thrown back and forth between; Tori L., Ruby B., Emily K., Ben C., Rufus B., Felix W., Josh B., Tyler B., George N., Jack A., Ben J., Skye B., Sophie C. and Charlie M. There was such a clear and obvious bond between this cast, and their precision and care throughout the rehearsal process truly shone through on stage, meaning that not one cast member went unnoticed. Special mentions go to Emily K. and Ben C., whose constant argumentative disputes between one another gifted the performance with such a slapstick quality and really enhanced the tension within the orchestra. Ruby B. also brilliantly helped to break this tension, with her moment of irritation at her fellow musicians, followed by her admittance and realisation that she was the reason that their orchestra could not play.
Several heart-warming moments began to permeate this performance, after they conquered their obstacles, encouraging the audience to use their imagination. For example, as the cast delivered an incredibly well choreographed and perfectly timed routine of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Fourth Symphony’ which again, further encapsulated and impressed the audience. A huge congratulations must be given to Dominique Chapman, who tackled the issues faced by social distancing head on, and played them to her advantage throughout the play, especially in the final scene in which Alex finally fulfilled his destiny as the ‘Pinball Wizard’, using masks to not only follow guidelines, but to encourage the audience to use their imagination, as suggested by Roland. This was a moment of profound importance, and one that will most definitely not be forgotten in years to come, by the cast and the audience alike. Well done to all involved, you truly did inspire the audience, boost morale and re-spark Cranleigh’s appreciation for live theatre.