reviews an JAMES MACNAMARA play. experimental

Corpus Playroom, 8-12th May, 9.30pm, £5-6

Written and directed by Robbie Aird

[rating: 2/5]

Two weeks ago I watched someone eat a substantial amount of instant coffee straight from the jar. And then I helped J.H. Prynne blow up a giant inflatable dinosaur. And then I was dragged on stage, made to down a glass of wine, and danced a little bit. And I ran around proclaiming the apocalypse. And then starred in an advert for Lindt chocolate.

And this week I got to see a graphic depiction of auto-erotic asphyxiation. And a penectomy performed with teeth. Drink Me involves both of these things. But the joy I received was not the same as that given to me by the activities of yesterweek. It was not quite there. The daring, successful unpredictably of ‘experimental theatre’ relies on a natural not-giving-a-shit, a distancing from the quotidian and the little explosions and implosions of meaning and experience that happen as a result. It has to be natural, or appear to be. If it seems deliberately ‘experimental’ (like, omg), then it will fail. I think Robert Aird cares too much about what people will think of his work, too much about how his work relates to the work of others.

There are many interesting elements in this play. I was left rather confused, and I like that. I wasn’t expecting the amount of humour that I was given: there are many laugh-out-loud moments in Drink Me, coming into existence most effectively through some intelligent directing. I liked it when they hissed. That was cool. There are interesting treatments of genre. Comedy and horror are played against each other effectively and quite innovatively; movements and mannerisms that might have been disquieting were made amusing, and this worked well.

Having said that, there were many problems. The dialogue is thick with cliché, and this always makes me a little annoyed. It was perhaps more difficult to process here; it jarred against the action in a potentially very interesting way – but I got the impression that this wasn’t intentional. There is a whiff of GSCE drama over-eagerness to cram devices, stuff, over the top of the script. Placards saying ‘BOO’ and ‘YAY’ (soooo raaandommm) are charming, but they are an example of the erosion of ‘experimental theatre’ into genre: they have been done because they work, and now only a kind of self-reflexive irony can atone for their use. They are a too obvious marker that a play is ‘experimental’.

It is a bit too easy to imagine Aird watching Saw and Mulholland Drive one night and a big thought bubble filled with ‘SO EXPERIMENTAL’ gradually appearing above his head. But I don’t think he is a fake. There is a lot of potential – as a writer and a director. It must also be said that there is some impressive acting in Drink Me, and some excellent sound and lighting, brought together by some interesting directorial decisions. Those are two supportive, ‘carry on my lad’, stars up there.

This play occasionally holds up a comically massive arrow to its status as ‘experimental’. This is its failing. But I think Robert Aird and company will go on to make good things – he is only an examless first yeah, bless him. So, continue, good sir. Into the darkness we go. 

  • Confused

    I am aware of the tired joke about Varsity reviews being all plot summaries. And I realise the point of the Tab is to be as far from Varsity as possible. But still. Would it kill you to tell us even vaguely what this play actually is? We honestly wouldn't think any the less of you.

    • Audience Member

      In defence of James Macnamara, telling you even vaguely what the play actually is would be quite difficult. I saw it last night; I'm none the wiser.

  • PAINfully

    paronising review. Get off the high horse.

    • true pedant

      that's painfully shit spelling. what kind of cambridge student misspells "patronising" so blatantly?

      …EVERYONE KNOWS IT'S WITH A Z.

  • The Acting

    Why have you not reviewed it?

    • not the real ami

      Because it's the Tab. They don't review the music in musicals (or, indeed the dancing, as in Footloose) and they review only the plot in straight drama.

      that said, this is new writing by a cambridge student, so they can at least be excused for devoting some focus to the writing and direction.

  • CLEAVAGE

    I'M STILL WAITING FOR YOU TO COME INTO MY DARKNESS BABE! TUCK ME IN BED THE WAY YOU TUCK YOUR SHIRT INTO YOUR PRISTINE CHINOS. xxxxxxx

    • James Macnamara

      CLEAVAGE, I'm more of a tight black jeans and loose shirt guy right now. Much more slimming. But any time, my love. Any time. Xx

      • old chum

        So Slim, think you can steal my look while I'm on leave? I will end you motherfucker.

  • Seymour

    FEED ME!

  • SURELY

    Cambridge University can find someone better than this to be the 'Senior Theatre Critic'. This writing is really quite appalling.
    If any of these Tab 'Theatre Critics' were to actually read a REAL review in a REAL paper they would realise what a review ACTUALLY IS.

    • And

      what is that exactly?

    • Member of the Public

      I love you for saying it how it is.

      Let me embrace you fully.

  • JAMES

    PLEASE MARRY ME

  • Unknown

    Why haven't The Tab reviewed this week's mainshow at Corpus? Every other show has a write-up….

  • RAGING FUCKER

    I saw this revolting piece of shit. There is nothing else to add. This review makes the best of a stinking pile of faecal matter. Jesus. I mean, JESUS. It was the first time I'd ever wished for a fire drill in a theatre.

    please please please never write again. And Mr Macnamara, fuck you sir. Fuck you.

  • Peter Brown

    What an enlightened critique from Raging Fucker.
    An axe to grind against those with a modicum of
    intelligence, imagination and unfettered creativity
    clearly beyond his own capacity perhaps?
    RF could have walked out at any time (and expose
    himself for what he clearly is…..

  • Jord

    If they have that kind of money already I’m not sure he needs a degree! haha