Review: Stiff!

Callie Vandewiele 9 May 2014

Adrian Gray and Olivia Le Anderson stand out in the small but strong cast of this year's Harry Porter Prize Winning play. Written by Fitzwilliam student Sam Grabiner, ‘STIFF!’ is a 'modern melodrama in a graveyard at night' which focuses on the escapades of two mis-matched friends, Frank and Charlie, who have the grim task of burying a body. As the evening spirals out of control their understanding of one other is challenged and they are launched into a night that they will not soon forget; a night full of family, coincidence, violence and love that culminates with the pair on a landfill sight trying to get rid of a corpse…

The set, depicting three simple locations, is stark, but clear. The costumes accentuate the mood whilst staging makes frequent and clever use of dust from the graveyard to highlight transitions, emotions and pauses.  With clear directional intention the acting is strong as this oddly existential melodrama hovers between the absurd, the hilarious and the grim without ever really settling on any one of these for more than heartbeat before flitting off again to flirt with the other two.

I felt that the script, rife with clever quips, starts out much stronger than it finishes, something even Le Anderson's complete and compelling commitment to her character and emotional state, could not hide. The plot twists seemed almost predictable throughout – both in timing and content – and although the small but dedicated opening night audience laughed with appreciation on all the correct cues, laughs of the ‘open-mouthed-I-can’t-stop-this-guffawing’ kind were in short supply.

That said, the company clearly have pulled out all the stops to produce this play and all elements of the production were executed in an exceptionally professional manner: from acting and costume to lighting and sound. If you're a fan of Nietzsche, you may indeed appreciate it far more than I did on an intellectual or emotional level as well.

Furthermore,  it is exam term; few students are going to have finished their day’s studying by 8pm, so it this is the season to attend the late shows. So if you enjoy existential humour and a a touch of dark irony, this late-nighter, despite its hiccups, is probably worth your time.