Theatre Review: ‘100’ at the Brian Friel Theatre

100, playing at the Brian Friel Theatre in the QFT, is a fascinating piece of physical theatre by .  It is for most part well-acted and entertaining; and its conclusion is satisfyingly open – it is a play that you will mull over long after you leave the theatre.

The play focuses on several characters stuck in purgatory; forced to select one specific memory to experience ad infinitum.  All other memories – of people, places, and things, will be forgotten.  It is an interesting concept to build a play around, and it works well to explore the worth of much culturally and socially specific behaviour.

The first thing to note is that the play is not overly ‘physical’.  But that is not to be negative – most of the story is told and most ideas explored through a combination of dialogue and sign language.  Physical theatre in the strictest sense can often be deliberately obtuse and pretentious, but, thankfully, 100 was neither of these things.

The acting was often well-realised.  Considering that even the most minimalistic theatre still sets its story in an easily conceivable reality, the actors on stage did well in portraying a sense of the otherworldly experience they were part of.

Yet there was an accent issue with ‘The Guide’.  His accent would flit between American and Scottish, often in the space of a single sentence.  This wasn’t overly obvious, but it was noticeable enough to be distracting.  Perhaps this was an element of character (and based on the character there is a potential logic behind that), but if so it should have been more obviously played up to emphasis its deliberateness.  That being said, “The Guide,” played by Danny Cunningham, was the source of most comic relief, and the “confidence” in his tone that he was aiming for at the beginning is there throughout.

There were no stand-out performers as such.  Each character was quite distinct, and the memories they considered important to them were interestingly varied.  The actors did a great job in switching from purgatory into a ‘flash-back’ memory scene – particularly the scene between Shannon Magnano and James Boal in which they recount their first meeting.  The scene is an excellent piece of observational humour, and it is dramatically quite different from the scenes in purgatory.  The juxtaposition in tone in the more light-hearted flash-backs is handled well.

Overall the play is entertaining and enjoyable.  The scene in which Sophie, played by Holly Conlon, chooses her final memory is perhaps drawn-out, but aside from that the story develops at a steady pace, the memories that the characters choose are intriguing and insightful.  Particularly the character of Ketu – a young man who is ostracised from his tribe because he speaks out against his culture’s beliefs –  played with pertinent understatement by Ben Grant.  His story is, in an interesting duality, still the most modern, despite his being from a tribe who are not aware that the world is round (although, one grip here is that this character (presumably) died at the same time as the rest – which is to say, recently – and it is difficult to conceive of a tribe in any part of the world who are so far back in the scale of scientific development).

Nevertheless, those are superficial criticisms.  100 is a fascinating play, performed well, by an evidently serious drama group.  The sound, the production and the direction all merge well with the dialogue and the ‘physicality’ of the play.  Nothing is lacking. It is easily recommended. 100 is on until Thursday at the Brian Friel Theatre, and it is well worth your time.

(FYI; my memory would simply be me thrashing about in the sea).

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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