BWW Review: SACRIFICE, Soho Theatre

BWW Review: SACRIFICE, Soho Theatre

BWW Review: SACRIFICE, Soho TheatreWhat would you do to achieve your dream of becoming an actor? How long would you wait for the call that will change everything? What would you suffer to be able to watch and wait for the dream to begin? Sacrifice is a new play, written by Co-Director of Ardent Theatre, Andrew Muir, to explore these ideas and challenges that young actors might come across as they try and make their breakthrough into the industry.

With the start of the Edinburgh Festival, we are reminded that there is always some great work to see outside the capital. However, the reality is that London still provides the bulk of theatrical jobs and opportunities while being the most expensive place to live in the country by far.

Ardent Theatre is a democratic and inclusive company, set up by Andrew Muir and Mark Sands, to include people in theatre regardless of background or socio-economic status. Ardent8 was created to provide help and support to eight young graduates from various regions, who have found the London theatre circles out of their reach. Through various workshops and a week-long residency at Soho Theatre, the company provides an opportunity for these graduates to showcase their talents to a London audience.

Muir's play sees seven housemates waking on a Saturday morning to find a stranger in their home, invited back after a drunken pub quiz. It emerges that the room they are sitting in is their entire living and sleeping space; they shower in an upstairs flat and sleep in sleeping bags on the floor. The group are all actors, yet all working in other jobs while they wait for their big or small breaks. As the play develops, the stranger challenges the housemates, through various means, to abandon their dreams of success.

The stranger is Sam, played with scrappy aggression by Sam Weston. He is the voice of reality, the crusher of dreams and yet, interestingly, does not seem to have any fulfilment or purpose in his own life. His main criticism is that the group are all paying extortionate rent to live in such squalor; getting into debt in an attempt to fulfil an unachievable dream. Weston is sharp and snappy, with a quick turn of phrase and has an instantly snarky reaction to aloof Nathan, played very convincingly by Nathan Linsdell. Their biting dialogue is a highlight of the play.

The play takes a while to come together, as the start is bitty and a little stop-start. It is not clear where the story is going at first and it is not revealed that the group are playing struggling actors until nearly the end of the play.

Overall, it would have been better for the actors if Muir had been able to create a longer play. In a short hour, it is impossible to explore eight characters fully and so none are fully developed. We see an interesting character arc with Nathan; his more privileged background and uncomfortable relationship with his father. Sam remains ultimately mysterious; a voyeur in the city he lives, who ridicules any ambition in others.

Cerebral Henry, played by Henry Holmes, dippy Sophie, played by Sophie Coulter and insecure Angela, played by Angela Crispim, are all potentially intriguing characters, but underused.

There is a nice mix of comic moments, particularly Nathan's reluctance to lend any money for milk, along with some dark realities about shared bathrooms and feeling detached from the world outside with their groomed beards and avocados. There are also some uncomfortable moments that include inherently racist attitudes, that are only heightened by the lack of racial diversity in the group themselves. There is also a moment of intellectual bullying where Nathan baits Sam about him mistaking French poet Arthur Rimbaud for Stallone's John Rambo. This would seem typical of Nathan's elitist nature, but the whole group joins in with the sneering, which seems oddly placed and makes them unlikable.

Ardent Theatre want to give theatrical opportunities to young actors and their intentions are laudable. However the production itself does not give all these actors the opportunity to showcase their talents to the greatest effect. This is a glimpse into the tough world of trying to make ambitions a reality in the unforgiving environment of the nation's capital city. Let's hope these actors can realise all their potential.

Photo Credit: Marc Douet

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From This Author Aliya Al-Hassan

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