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Review: The Mystae

“I’ve done some weird shit in my time, but this is about the opposite I reckon.”

 Nick Whitby’s Cornish coming of age drama was recreated in York’s very own Drama Barn. The age old story of teenagers trying to reconcile their lives was told through the backdrop of Ancient Greece, drugs, lust and love.

In the modern day three friends, Holman, Tre and Ina (portrayed by Freya Kingsley, James Mcllwrath and Ellie Ward) spend the night in a cove on the Cornish coast and learn that “secrets are power.”

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The play’s attempt to mirror the Eleusinian mysteries, the most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece, was overt. It was not the strongest feature of the play nor was the exploration of drugs. However, the chemistry between the cast was tangible. The romantic tensions were a driving force behind the drama.

An interesting facet of the play was casting of Holman (Freya Kingsley) as a female rather than Nick Whitby’s original male character. It showed how effective gender blind auditions are. The change made no difference to the narrative other than representing our diverse youth culture. However, it did bring to mind the nuance language has in whether it is spoken by a male or a female. Regardless, the effortlessly cool Holman was a believable love interest for the more naïve Ina (Ellie Ward).

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A standout performance, Cornish accent and all, was Tre performed by James Mcllwrath. Charismatic and comedic, the play seemed to change direction upon his arrival though drastically diverged and intensified. Tre’s interruption of Ina and Holman’s romantic “trip” slowly revealed the dishonesty that lay at the root of their friendship.

The momentum did somewhat dip with the historical explanation behind their venture to the cove, to recreate an ancient Greek tradition. However, this was perhaps reflective of teenage intellectualising – it’s not that intellectual.

As a final year student, I tapped quite easily to the plays thematic focus. The periphery of change; that strange time between school and university where life feels like it will never be the same. That is the essence of the play. Aside from the drug taking, pseudo philosophical conversation and ominous shadowy eyes, these were just three teenagers trying to confront growing up.

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Is university the best option? Is it worth the excruciating debt? How do you maintain your relationships from a distance? Or, how are you treated if you don’t go to university?

These questions are not answered in the play, but Holman, Tre and Ina represent different choices in life, presented stylish on stage with a directional flare by Fizz Magereson for music and sound.

Indeed, the production was hypnotic. The continual sound of rushing waves and the blue tinged stage artistically recreated the claustrophobia of the cove. A standout scene was the shadow puppetry portraying the characters falling through consciousness and experiencing drug induced hallucinations. It really transported the audience to the same detachment the characters felt from the real world. Whilst there was a very minor set collapse, it was still a great example of what amateur theatre can achieve.

I think this is a play with so much potential. I can’t help but feel it is still at an evolutionary stage and Magereson graciously encouraged critiques and suggestions after the play finished. However, it was a strong first performance and I look forward to what this group might produce next.

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Catherine McNaughton

Catherine McNaughton

I'm a final year History student at York with big dreams to get into journalism, travel South America and make it to my 9ams.
Catherine McNaughton

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