Writers: James Stenhouse, Gemma Paintin, Nick Walker
Reviewer: Madelaine Bowman
Bursting with just as much energy and innocuous humour as the American teen movies that have inspired its production, Hokes Bluff explores the idealistic notion of the American Dream, depicting a superficial world in which winning is all that matters, but losing is the stark and haunting reality.
Adhering to a typical American teen sports movie formula, the play is centred on high school sweethearts, Tyler (James Stenhouse) and Connie (Gemma Paintin) – a stereotypical jock and cheerleader couple, as much in love with the culture in which they exist as they are with one another. The superficiality of their partnership is evidenced during a scene in which Connie, after self-consciously changing into her cheerleading dress, performs a sexy dance for Tyler using her pompoms as props. In this scene, Connie is liberated by her uniform, which gives her the confidence to dance for Tyler, making clear the power of her chosen identity.
The action of the play is controlled by the hawk-eyed referee (Laura Danequin), whose intrusive whistle blowing marks the end of each scene with abrupt finality. This works extremely well throughout the performance, as it helps to solidify the idea that both Tyler and Connie are ultimately ruled by their respective emotional attachments to the game and to the American ideology that they represent.
The intimate traverse staging is a clever choice, as it enables the actors to interact with the audience and bring them into the narrative, either as supporters of the game or as Tyler’s fellow team players. Also worth mentioning is the dialogue, which is brilliantly written and earnestly delivered. Interestingly, the cast maintain their British accents throughout the performance, which succeeds in foregrounding the superficiality of American pop culture, and serves to diminish any notion of a definite narrative context, thereby acknowledging the powerful influence that American ideology has, and continues to have, on the Western world as we know it.
While Action Hero’s production is effective in highlighting the dichotomy between idealistic notions of the American Dream and the often mundane reality of life in the West, the nonlinear narrative sometimes lacks clarity and therefore seems disjointed at times. As a result, the performance as a whole lacks poignancy in parts and fails to captivate the audience in the way that it could if the plot were more clearly defined. Nonetheless, this is an original and cleverly devised piece of theatre, which brings into focus with a high level of wit the misplaced sense of hope that American ideology often inspires in the young and naive.
Reviewed on 8th October 2014