DramaPulse FestivalReviewSouth East

PULSE FESTIVAL 2016: Scratchworks Theatre Company – Nel

Writers and Devisors: Scratchworks Theatre Company
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Venue: New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich


They day never trust what you see on screen, but after seeing Nel you may never trust what you hear.

From radio drama such as the iconic The Archers right through to the latest big screen blockbuster, all those footsteps, tyre screeches or door slams you hear are probably not what you think.

Behind the scenes, a team of sound effects experts, Foley Artists in production terminology, recreate necessary effects to heighten the aural experience. It is a world far removed from the coconut shell horse hoofs but a world that employs an equally bizarre collection of everyday items to create unexpected effects. A hot water bottle can be used for car chase tyre screeches and a purring cat, celery for a bone breaking and a hand drill for bike pedals.

It is this secretive, behind the microphone, world that is explored in Scratchwork Theatre’s piece Nel.

Nel (Sian Keen) is an expert Foley Artists, always keeping an ear out for unusual sources of sound effects. Hers is a world that is heard but not seen, much like herself. One of life’s loners, she finds friendship in her cat and her goldfish (called Wanda, what else) but social interaction terrifies her.

When she meets a wannabe screenwriter Bea (Laura Doble), a woman perhaps as social inadept as herself, there’s a glimmer of companionship, but can Nel step into the limelight to find happiness?

Its an ingenious concept by the company, fusing music, movement and of course live recreations of the Foley effects. Keen and Doble are joined by Alice Higginson and Hanora Kamen and between the quartet deliver a whole community of slightly oddball characters. There’s inventive staging that keeps the eye occupied as well as the ear, but running at 75 minutes the material is somewhat overstretched.

There’s real potential in the piece but there needs to be a stronger central story to hang the sub plots off. We never fully get to understand the driver behind Nel’s isolation, and while the ingenious use of everyday objects for sound effects is fascinating, and well portrayed, they do somewhat overshadow the dramatic narrative. There is a naivety to the piece that charms, but it is not always enough to keep us fully engaged.

It is an early sharing of a work still in development and if the company can focus in on what the story is that they wish to tell, remove the extraneous and perhaps shave 30 minutes off the running time then it will pay dividends. There’s real potential here, strong performances and a wealth of stage techniques being demonstrated. Perhaps the company just need to keep a few tricks up their sleave to impress in future productions.

Reviewed 29 May 2016 | Image: Contributed

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