Fresh faces at the ADC

Jessica Savage-Hanford 16 November 2007

This year’s ADC Freshers’ Mainshow, The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt, tells the story of the return of billionaire ‘Claire Zachanassian’ to her former town of Gullen. An attempted murder follows her arrival, which serves to expose a sadistic cruelty not only in ‘Zachanassian’, but also in the otherwise humble, rural residents themselves.

Although The Visit was billed as a “bleak drama” the expected atmosphere of sinister ambiguity and dark humour was never quite achieved. The use of choral movement as well as the multicoloured elements of set against a stark, bare, grey background gave a surreal feel to the play, yet the subtlety that this performance so needed in order to be truly disturbing, was lost. The portrayal of ‘Zachanassian’ (Roisin Kiberd) was somewhat deranged, but otherwise lacking in threat and often her actions were not powerful enough to merit the emotive responses of those around her. Other performances also suffered from this lack of subtle understatement. Nevertheless, some moments of tension did remain, as with the cuckoo-bird noises in the forest. These built up into a distorted cacophony of frantic noise in response to the line: “She’s un-killable” thereby promoting (what was otherwise not quite achieved) a very dark, threatening portrayal of the mysterious ‘Mme. Zachanassian’.

Overall, however, the cast was generally quite strong, with some especially impressive performances from the ‘Professor’ (Eleanor Massie), ‘Alfred Ill’ (Max Hayward), the ‘Mayor’ (Ben Hayward) and the pastor (Robert Craig). Particular praise also needs to be given to Patrick Kingsley and Nick Beck for their fantastically comic portrayal of two blinded and castrated young men, wholly devoted to their mistress. They also proved capable of fuelling a more disturbing atmosphere with their childish, repetitive calls.

Ultimately, the performance was a promising piece of work for a Freshers’ show. The only major weakness lay in the sometimes confused atmosphere and overly exaggerative comic stance on what is meant to be a more subtle, underplayed performance and bleaker, more disturbing play.

Jessica Savage-Hanford