Originally halted by lockdown in 2020 before the play had even had its initial run, Beneath the Surface will have had to remain just so for a little while longer. From tonight’s performance, I like to think that the extra lapse of time (and come on, when do you ever get that really?) will have only given the cast and crew the opportunity to hopefully make this show the best it could be.
True to its name, the play explores what lurks beneath, what feeds the pressures that young people might feel today. As 5 friends are drawn to venture into a cave as a storm hits them and they are looking for a bit of adventure during the holidays, they find themselves pushed to confront their shadows. You know, those parts of ourselves that we don’t want to dig too deep for and would rather leave buried, when, really, they are the key to understanding ourselves and others better and be a little gentler with ourselves.
It was lovely to see a stage arrayed with such a wide range of ages: it created a great dynamic between the young actors, which in turn contributed greatly to bringing out the touches of comedy sprinkled here and there, amidst an overall serious subject matter.
Starting with James Beagon’s writing for creating a piece that mixes tones in just the right doses, there is much to be lauded. The lighting design, devised by George Cort, captured the eeriness of the cave beautifully, something that was only heightened by the creative use of shadow play and movement, of which it is clear that a lot of work went into. And of course, last but not least, the actors themselves, who brought the text and emotions to life brilliantly. Whilst I did find some performances to be more engaging than others, the ensemble were strong nonetheless. I particularly enjoyed the wittiness of Jakub Bednarczyk’s The Bottle, Niall Bayne’s energetic portrayal of The Host, and the humorous candour with which Jacob Watson interpreted The Imp, but this is just scratching the surface of a number of great performances amongst such a big cast (20). As I have said before, the group dynamic and chemistry was compelling and great to see, and all worked in a way that elevated one another’s performances, which is all that theatre is about.
With its name projected big and wide on the stage before the start of the play, Strange Town does indeed have much to be proud of. With all this being said, I cannot wait to see which of their next productions have yet to make it to the Surface!
You can stay up to date with Strange Town’s ventures and find out how to get involved with the youth theatre company at https://strangetown.org.uk/ or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/infostrangetown
Reviewer: Louise Balaguer
Reviewed: 11th June 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★