In a word, A Sudden Burst of Blinding Light was impeccable. It was hands down, the highest quality performance I have seen in Cambridge theatre, and I would recommend anyone to go and see it on Saturday 4th for its last showing.
The play, written by Ben Maier, follows a girl from London, who meets a magician who can make people disappear, all set within the boundaries of a maniacal gameshow. It explores mental health, poking fun at it whilst maintaining a deep-rooted respect for its complexities and impact on peoples’ lives, as well as the power of friendship. It was deep, intelligent and witty, and leaving the theatre, I was hit by such a mix of emotions it felt like I had to talk about what I had seen, not only to make sense of it, but to see if its impact on others was as strong as on me. It was caught between being satirical, musical and tragic and thus showed a real richness in content, bringing together the seemingly oppositional elements of drama and performance.
The cast was incredible and worked together so well. Maya Achan and Malcom Ebose played one side of a coin with monologues and giving a more serious performance, whilst Charlotte Cromie and Ed Paget offered a more comedic and over-the-top portrayal of amusing talk-show hosts. This resulted in a night where you were laughing one minute and sniffing along the next. You could tell that it was meticulously rehearsed; it was fluid, and everyone was in sync, from their facial expressions to dramatic pauses. Individually the actors were all strong, gutsy and the dichotomy between the two types of performance styles didn’t split the play, but somehow, and against my expectations, weaved around each other and created a momentum that drove the night forward.
The cast made full use of both the ADC stage and the auditorium; they frequently wandered through the audience and even asked for audience participation. This only made the performance more intimate and more like the gameshow world where the play was set. The use of props, sound effects, voiceover and lighting was scrupulously rehearsed and well thought out once again, and the performers handled everything in a way that was not swamping or disruptive, not breaking the flow they had created. Of particular note, the spotlights that showered down on Achan and Ebose and the use of strobe lighting was stellar and really atmospheric, whilst maintaining a seriousness and professional interpretation of the play.
Against my usual judgements, the group dancing was very refreshing and completely out of place, which is what I think made it so – in place. The cheesiness is perhaps why it was so effective, especially when placed after very emotive monologues that had me tearing up. Again, it was a play built upon contrasts in genre, style and interpretation, and it amazed me how well this set-up worked and how skilfully done it was. Harry Burke gave an excellent all-singing, all-dancing performance, yet also demonstrated his ability to perform as an empathetic character. Putting in this light musical entertainment shouldn’t work, but it did; and it did so fantastically, because of the actors who put their heart and soul into what they were doing.
It was a brilliant script and a blinding performance. Flawless.
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