At a time when a night at the theatre means sitting in front of our TV, laptop or phone, Edinburgh venue ‘The Space UK’ have stepped up to the plate for the second time to give us Season 2 of their online fringe theatre festival.
Created by BMV Theatre Productions and adapted by Brian Cano during a 2020 lockdown, ‘Beyond The Beyond’ has been filmed for Zoom by the actors in their own home, and then edited to create a piece of theatre which exams the 19th Century ‘problem play’. ‘Behind The Beyond’ the play, delves into Stephen Leacock’s book ‘Behind the Beyond: And Other Contributions To Human Knowledge’ written in 1913, to give a satirical glance at this genre of play. The problem plays of the 19th Century gave playwrights the ammunition to use the stage to exam social issues of the day by playing out scenarios within their plays.
In this particular example, we are treated to an examination of the class system of the 19th Century. Led by the Narrator (Paul Williamson), we hear of Sir John Trevor (Mike Kennedy), and his wife, Lady Cicely (Amy Quinn-O’Brien), who are an odd pairing, with a 25 year age gap and nothing obvious in common, Lady Cicely oozes boredom, even though she has social standing and money, she simply has nothing to do. It is no surprise, therefore, that she seeks to fill her vacuous existence with an affair with a younger man, Jack Harding (Seamus O’Brien). The melodrama is essential to portray Leacock’s views of a class system that doesn’t quite have a grip on reality and to poke fun at how this type of play, is played out on stage.
Leacock has a talent for sarcastic humour, typified in the lines, “What an actor – he walked across the stage almost as though he was really walking…” and “The French maid only knew 6 words of French but she was 2 ahead of the audience so she was OK…”
The actors did a marvellous job of producing well thought out performances, especially considering they could not rehearse together as they were in lockdown. The production team did a fantastic job in providing interesting and relevant backdrops for the actors, (who all wore period dress), and this attention to detail certainly enhances the overall effect.
This play, which examines Leacock’s wry view of upper-class life which appears to serve no purpose. The repeated dismissal of the ‘servants’ as being there to fetch and carry and who appear otherwise invisible, love (or is it?), deception and past indiscretions. This could have been written for any period, but this type of play was typical of the 19th Century and BMV Theatre Productions have captured its essence.
There isn’t long left to watch shows from the Space UK Online Festival as it finishes on 31st January. To catch this homage to the ‘problem play’, go to: https://online.thespaceuk.com/show/behind-the-beyond
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 29th January 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★