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Debut production in the underground lab!

Better Times Inc (image courtesy: Theatre Royal Plymouth)

REVIEW: BETTER TIMES INC

 

Arriving at the packed underground Lab theatre, I had no idea what to expect, both from the venue or the show. What then followed, was a slick and well-oiled performance by a group of 7 young and talented cast members.

The opening scenes are slightly confusing, with jovial Tudor style dancing in elaborate costumes. However, this paves the way for the unfolding storyline which follows.

The premise of the thought-provoking story is that the company Better Times Inc transports its clients back in history, via a time travelling portal, to places where better times existed. Their aim is to take people on a journey, far removed from 2054’s heavy-duty world problems such as disastrous climate change and ultra intense employee scrutiny, which we face in our everyday lives today.

The backwards and forwards scenes were interspersed continually by the cast introducing props in a loop surrounding the stage. Their timing was always spot on, and the production felt well-rehearsed and perfected, leaving no doubt as to the group’s ability to perform as a team.

Each cast member played a variety of characters, which were well suited to their individual strengths. Hester the Jester (Georgia Wilkinson) provoked the most laughs and one liners, and Soph’ (Rachel Honeyball) easily inhabited the most dislikeable character, as the ultimate villain of the show. Nova (Marshall Somers) had scenes based around a relationship with the Sex Pistols Jonny Rotten, which raised a few laughs from those audience members old enough to remember him. Grace Davies as George, easily acted with the most confidence of all the cast members.

The story has an almost ‘Black Mirror’ feel to it and the use of props and sound effects add to this illusion. LED screens and the swiping, swishing tones delivered by the creative team’s technical crew, all give a believable impression of the modern world we now live in, where we are surrounded by technologies only imagined just a few short years ago.

The story involves Hester, Queen Mary’s Jester, being trapped in the current time 2054, after walking through the portal when it should have been closed. It has intentionally been left open by the villain of the tale; attempting to reset the future, by altering the events of the past. But will she succeed...?

My favourite moments of the play were those performed in slow motion, accompanied by atmospheric music, dimmed lighting and an array of light sabre’esque props. These scenes were highly effective and the cast’s facial expressions throughout, undoubtedly produced the best reaction from the audience.

I enjoyed the performance, but it would have been more enjoyable had the tiny and intimate theatre not felt so stuffy and claustrophobic. On several occasions I noticed the audience fanning themselves and shedding clothes. A general sense of lack of air circulating in the room was an unnecessary distraction, which I hope will be addressed before I return to see another show here.

The Fishwives Theatre Company are very clearly a talented bunch and I look forward to seeing their next production, whatever that may be.

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