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Seven Screams cast is torpedoed by laboured direction



Review by David Munro

ALEJANDRO Casano is a Spanish author, whom I understand, is highly thought of in his own country.

I must admit to being totally unfamiliar with his works and after seeing the production of his Seven Screams at Sea, at the Theatro Technis, I am happy to remain so.

The play, which is translated by Robert Armes, who also plays a leading role, concerns itself with the fate of seven first-class passengers on a liner which is, apparently, about to be torpedoed.

Each of the seven has a sin to confess which they do during the course of a long 75 minutes.

All of them are predictable and mostly boring. Whether the author’s original intention was to have each represent one of the seven deadly sins, and this intention has been lost in translation I cannot say.

Certainly, every other cliché was present.

The wife who isn’t a wife, but a whore. A crooked financier arms dealer, a drunk who is a murderer, a sister who let her brother die in an accident she causes, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

These sort of hackneyed plot lines work if those expounding them are cinema stars of the first magnitude and are played out in the gloss of a Hollywood film.

In a little theatre, in the round in Stoke Newington, they seem very tawdry and threadbare.

The cast of 11, meant to convince you of the dramatic verity of their roles, were hampered by a director, Sam Snapes, who either kept his cast clustered round each other so any impact of what they were saying, or trying to do, was lost in the jostling for positions, or he separated them in little groups with no inter-relationship whatsoever.

An example of dysfunctional direction leading to dramatic chaos and audience disbelief.

It is perhaps not very fair, therefore, to criticise the actors for their failure to breathe any life into this fusty old melodrama, although to be fair, some performances did shine through the general gloom.

Eleanor Caird, as a repressed and suicidal spinster, with her brother’s death on her conscience, made a very believable character and her tentative love scenes with Robert Armes, as the reporter who oversees the action, but takes no part in it, were very touching.

Camilla Mathias, as the Duchess who is a tart, delivered her lines with conviction, but seemed awkward in the ensemble moments.

Martin Stokes, as her Baron 'husband', gave a very convincing portrayal of the reticent aristocrat when he was allowed anything to do or say.

Martin Cort, as a mischievous, conscience-prodding professor, gave an amusing performance but not one which seemed to have much relation to the plot.

The rest of the cast made valiant if somewhat vain attempts to keep the ship afloat, but I for one was glad when the torpedo put them and the audience out of their misery.

But No! there was an apotheosis which set out to prove that it was all a dream and there is redemption in repentance.

Well, I agree it was a nightmare, but for me there was no redemption for the cast.

They did not deserve it for the boredom which they unrepentantly had made the audience suffer.

Perhaps the next play they will do is one where the cast kill their director at the first rehearsal and decide to put on a revival of Maria Marten and the Red Barn. That I would enjoy!

Seven Screams at Sea by Alejandro Casona. Translated by Robert Armes; Director, Sam Snape; Lighting, Alex Passmore.
CAST: Sebastian Aguire; Robert Armes; Eleanor Caird; Darren Chancey; Martin Cort; Jack Lancaster; Kate Loustau; Camilla Mathias; Geraint Rees; Mathew Stokes; Jackson Wright.
Producer. Robert Armes.
Theatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Point, London, NW1 1TT.
From August 3 – 22, 2004; Tues – Fri: 8.30pm; Sat: 7.30pm Sun: 6pm; Box Office: 020 8354 1785
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