Writer: Oladipo Agboluaje
Director: Christopher Elmer-Gorry
Reviewer: Rosella Barnes
Opening their debut performance at the Royal &Derngate, Northampton, the cast of Immune gave an extremely credible performance of their independently created script. Written by Oladipo (Dipo) Agboluaje and work-shopped alongside members of the Royal &Derngate Young Company, Immune is a unique, personal, and dramatic story that emulates passionately on stage. This collaborative creative process has successfully produced a well thought out and contained piece of theatre.
Set in a secondary school, a group of year 10s, each with their own quirks and fears, are thrust into an apocalypse as the only survivors. The play deals with relevant elements of day-to-day life of young people; social media and technology, the prejudices of sexuality and religion, to the prospect of responsibility and significance against the reality of a mass crisis.
The dialogue does well to keep these deeply contentious aspects of young people’s lives from becoming pretentious, overbearing on the narrative, or too obvious. Where these issues may be localised and personal, there are similar threads running throughout, which the dialogue and the cast do well to draw out. There are moments where possibly too much was trying to be said at once, which was certainly something Dipo highlighted in the post-production Q&A.
Especially significant was the emphasis on the cast being an ensemble. Not only as school children uniting in an apocalypse, but also as members of the “crew”, rearranging stage design. Put aptly by one member; there is no off-stage, and nowhere to hide – whether that be from the audience or the apocalypse. Sometimes, with all 14 cast members on stage, there was a tendency to just see a crowd of people. However, the set design and overall collaboration within the cast in terms of performance and characterisation, illustrated a sincere level of dependency. Not only did the characters, the school children, come to depend on the comfort, support, and resilience of each other, but the cast depended on each other to sustain the continual motion of the play.
Scene changes were effective and slick. The movable, metallic, textual set designed by Carl Davies made for an urban blank canvas, a “playground” with which spaces were created and intuitively used. Dialogue was rarely lost during the movement of set pieces or those on stage. I especially enjoyed the classroom science lesson scene where staggered cubes made for rows of desks, and clever movement affirmed well thought out characterisations and group dynamics.
The performances from this group of talented young actors were a pleasure to watch. This was a challenging play that cleverly manipulated its material with characters shifting from monologue back to normal speech almost continuously. This makes for an interesting comparison between our personal thoughts and feelings and what we say out-loud, as well as a removed observation of what’s happening around us.
Despite being such a large cast and a relatively short performance, characterisations were strong, especially those of Peter (Ethan Kelly), Samson (Luke Nunn), Bonnie (Bethany Priddy), Eric (Jarzinho Rapoz), and Bella (Esme Joy Allen). Alongside whom, a mention of director Christopher Elmer-Gorry and his ability to bring out the talent in these young actors and actresses.
The play ends abruptly, eerily, and with a weighty amount of food for thought. With a running time of just over an hour and no interval, there is a surprising amount to be said about this whirlwind of a performance.
Runs until Saturday 4th July 2015