Videotape by 10ft Tall Aberdeen: Theatre Review

Videotape Aberdeen: Just FYI: The actors on the poster are I believe from an earlier production!


I was invited to attend a local theatre production last week – I had heard and was already interested in the play, Videotape by Oliver Emanuel, so of course I was happy to go! Aberdeen, in my time here anyway, hasn’t always had much in the way of locally produced dramatic theatre. Musicals aplenty and touring productions (primarily musicals!) were mostly it for theatre. To be honest it’s something I have been known to grumble about from time to time, especially as the nearest city, Dundee, has a well-known repertory theatre – Aberdeen can feel like a cultural vacuum sometimes, but it seems since the downturn of the oil industry more creative projects seem to be happening, for whatever reason, and hopefully that trend will continue.

I had heard about this local group, the 10ft Tall Theatre, doing some Chekhov shorts and was intrigued by the sound of them. One of their listed aims as a company is to “access, build and inspire new audiences for theatre in the North East of Scotland” – sounds good to me!

The play was put on in Aberdeen in the Underdog venue, which is owned by the Brewdog men upstairs and serves all of the Brewdog beverages you could ask for! It was my first visit – again this space has sprung up recently and is putting on various creative endeavours, from spoken word to theatre to gay club nights, the sorts of things that Aberdeen needs more of imho!

Anyway, it is a relatively small space, for the stage seating anyway, there were three, maybe four rows of chairs, and a couple of rows of raised stools behind. We nabbed the last two seats together, which happened to be in the front row. The stage is set inches from this, raised just a few feet, so it is definitely an intimate theatre setting!

All I knew about the play Videotape going into it was that it was a drama with some added video scenes set in Aberdeen. As we took our seats the lights were low and music was playing, the stage was set with the furnishings of a  flat – a small couch and a padded bench, with some clothes and blankets strewn around. A large screen backdrop was placed at the back of the stage.

The two actors sweep onto stage without much light and take their places: a young man and a young woman. The man is sleeping, curled up on the bench (you quickly surmise it is doubling for a bed –a bed probably would have taken up most of the stage so it’s easy to see why they did this!).

The woman speaks first, an almost disarmingly direct monologue to the audience. I admit I haven’t been to such an intimate play in a while, so it took me a minute to adjust to this (as I used to act, all I could initially think was “Wow, she is doing such an amazing job playing with the fourth wall/keeping in character!”).

Anyway we learn a bit about “Her” (that’s her character name, and his is “He” ;-)). We learn she is an old film buff, murder mysteries in particular; The Lady Vanishes and other Hitchcock type films are listed as firm favourites.

Hannah Donaldson, as "Her", is immediately engaging, as she explains her passion for film with dreamy words and bright optimism. She seems to be an insomniac, staying up until the wee small hours watching old films, while her partner sleeps in the next room.

The lights shift to the sleeping form of “He”. He awakens, and wonders aloud why he is alone/where his girlfriend has gone. He speaks of the only trace of her being a hair in the bed, which doesn’t smell like her or give any comfort of her presence. He seems like a happy go lucky cheeky chappy, with a hint of discontent, and is likably played by Mark Wood.

We see the couple go through the motions of a weekend routine that seems to have become fragmented and not what it once was. Subtle jibes are thrown, and He is eager to escape the flat to run “errands”, making Her immediately suspicious.

A very engaging set piece then happens, where the pair traverse around town, one in hot pursuit of the other, all given added cinematic excitement by familiar scenes shot around the city displayed on screen behind them as they go.

The audience gets to know each character and their version of the relationship primarily through the individual monologues of the characters. The dialogue is addressed both to themselves and as exposition/to the audience. This is done remarkably naturally and with a good helping of humour. It’s hard not to relate to such an intimately told story, and to feel worry for the both of them as to where it is going. 

Despite the quips and long term couple humour, there is definitely a slightly ominous undercurrent throughout.
I won’t spoil the play, but I will say there is a twist. It’s a big twist, and even though you sense something is coming, you are not quite sure what it is. 

It dramatically shifts the audience's perspective, but it doesn’t feel untrue to the rest of the tone of the play. Both actors did a stellar job with this, and (again I don’t want to spoil it), as someone who the subject matter hit home with, it was virtually impossible not to get a bit emotional.

The closing act is quiet and touching, but when it finishes you do feel a bit jarred, as if from a trance (maybe this was just me!). The play's run time is just under an hour. I wouldn't have minded it being a bit longer, but then they would have needed an intermission and I do think the flow of the play is just right and loses no impact or meaning because of it.

Anyway, we both really enjoyed the play a lot (if my husband likes something it’s definitely good, he’s not a through and through theatre dork like me!), and agreed we will definitely be checking out 10 Ft. Tall’s future productions. It’s really inspiring to see local, original work being put on – the combination of the relatable characters, Noir-ish drama and the ambience given by the music and video came together to create something fresh and dynamic, a big thumbs up from me!

Videotape has finished in Aberdeen, but is touring this week in Banchory, Inverurie and Elgin – do check it out if you get a chance, and definitely keep an eye out for their future productions.




*I was invited to attend the play, but all opinions are my own  :-)

2 comments

  1. Sounds interesting! I don't think I've seen any small production plays, aside from school ones, ha. I wish my husband liked going to them.

    That's pretty cool that they included things/video of the city! I like that sort of thing, like you can relate to it a little bit more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah it was fun, you never know he might like it? I don't think David had ever been to a play when I first met him, now he's always up for it, as long as it's not a musical anyway!

      Delete