Writers: Chris Dugrenier (Wealth’s Last Caprice)&Amy Louise Webber (If Things Don’t Change)
Reviewer: Clara Plackett
The concept behind Chris Dugrenier’s Wealth’s Last Caprice is intriguing and has some depth, but unfortunately this performance does not. From the beginning of the play, and before Dugrenier has announced her intention to gather every single item she owns and write a will which she desires the audience to be part of, there is a complete absence of theatricality. Apart from Dugrenier and her desk and laptop, the stage is relatively barren and so starkly lit that it is unclear whether the performance has actually started or if things are still being put together. At one point the lights are dampened while Dugrenier dances in the dark and lets out a surprising shriek, but, failing to relate to the audience by this point, this creates no emotional effect, and is only briefly shocking.
Dugrenier’s revelation that none of her possessions mean anything to her in isolation, but instead represent a fleeting memory, is explained clearly, but the way in which she reiterates this message is so uncharismatic that it feels awkward and embarrassing for the audience. The off –stage voice seems out of place and random, and perhaps the strongest part of the performance is the projection of a video which displays Dugrenier obsessively organising all of her belongings. It looks as though it belongs on its own in an art exhibition, and provides relief from her live performance.
The main problem is that the audience are not persuaded to feel as sentimental about the writing of this will as Dugrenier evidently does; it is absurd, but unintentionally. When Dugrenier passes around her will for people to sign very few are keen to participate, and the way in which her performance comes across as a strange lecture rather than a play remains baffling.
After the interval, Amy Louise Webber’s short performance does at least bring some colour to the stage. Although she is reliving her grandmother’s funeral, she bases her story around the bright red Dr. Martens which she insisted on wearing then and is wearing now, with a party dress to match. She succeeds in celebrating her life and creating a vivid image of an absent person’s days in the sun, handing out homemade bread and jam. The recreation of a dance hall with alternating lights is particularly cringe worthy, however, along with her impersonations of family members’ accents, and so her performance becomes embarrassing to watch very quickly. It feels as though Webber is about to burst into song the whole way through, but nothing ever takes off. She maintains enthusiasm throughout, but, having the opposite problem to Dugrenier, it is hard to find substance in any of her material, and her fast paced ramblings never take us anywhere.