Review: Beginning, Middle, End

Nikki Alcock 21 November 2011

Beginning, Middle, End

Corpus Playroom Lateshow, 9.30pm, until Sat 19th Nov

Beginning, Middle, End is not just your average play for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is based on three real life love stories submitted anonymously over the summer of 2011. Secondly, it was devised collaboratively by the various actors and directors involved. And most notably, it is the final part of a controversial project created and devised by Oliver Rees, that for the last six months has been providing a messaging service between loved ones in the form of anonymously sent texts and roses and will ultimately be sending one lucky, pre-booking audience member and their loved one to Paris.

The play itself is, as the title suggests, divided neatly into three parts, the beginning, middle and end of three relationships: a pair of strangers set up by a mutual friend on an awkward blind date that develops into romance, a slightly sinister supervisor who becomes obsessed with his American PhD student and a couple who meet at their interview to Oxford university but struggle to keep up their relationship when one gets in and the other doesn’t.

The script is clearly intended to be, and is for a large part, very funny – although I will never understand why the audience laughed so heartily at the dangerously climactic scene between the supervisor and his student in which he turns up unexpectedly at her home and challenges her over their ‘relationship’. Harry Carr, in particular, acted his part as the patronising and often self-obsessed Oxford student who cares more about academics than his Bristol-bound girlfriend, with great precision, his delivery at times being equally if not more funny than the lines themselves. Other scenes were less funny, but then this obviously reflects the nature of producing a play that is based on true events. In these scenes, kudos should also be given to strong emotional performances, especially from Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey whose naturalistic acting, precise timing and good stage chemistry with counter-part, Jack Parlett, made for sometimes hilarious, sometimes extremely uncomfortable viewing.

The beauty of Beginning, Middle, End is how accessible it is to us all. I doubt many in the audience weren’t reminded of some past awkward dinner, embarrassing incident in an interview or painful breakup. The project preceding and surrounding its creation has been accused of being nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt, a quirky gimmick to advertise the play. Whether or not this is true hardly seems relevant. Any project which has connected so many people in such a positive and fun way can hardly be a bad thing – and if interest in it leads these people to go and see what is undoubtedly a very good play, all the better!

Nikki Alcock