Review Contains Spoilers
On Wednesday night I went to see the play, “Statistics” by Hipshot Theatre Company. The play itself was performed in The Market Inn, a pub in the centre of Ayr and much of the story also took place in the pub. This gave an interesting dynamic to the story as it was if the action was happening around you, but i’ll talk more about that later.
The story centres around the character Lee, who leaves the army at the start of the play because he has been sexually assaulted. He returns home to his group of friends and struggles to settle back into ordinary life. They spend their nights drinking and getting high until a local gangster recruits them to do a job for him. But things aren’t as straightforward as that.
The main theme in the play as I saw it was “secrets”. Lee, his best mate Jamie and the gangster Tait are all keeping secrets from others. We see the burden that these secrets have on each other and the effects they have on the people around them. There is a definite sense of relief when these secrets are told and the characters are able to unburden themselves.
What I liked about the Play
Overall I enjoyed the play and felt that it was a strong first piece by Hipshot Theatre Company writers/performers Chris Taylor and Barry Carson. The characters of Lee and Jamie were well written and competently acted by Chris Taylor and Barry Carson. The friendship between them was authentic and they played off one another well. Both of them handled the comic and serious aspects of the play well although there were a few “stiff” lines of dialogue.
The story kept me interested and there were a few surprises that kept me guessing until the end.
Although I didn’t feel the “inner conflict” scene where Lee was boxing against his abuser was needed, it was an original way of handing the scene and it was little touches like this that set this apart from other amateur plays I have scene.
Setting the play within a pub was an excellent idea and reflected the ethos of the company. Their vision is to bring theatre back to the masses. Rather than expecting audiences to come to a theatre, the theatre comes to them. Although not a new idea it is a refreshing vision and was really what Shakespeare was trying to do all those years ago. They wanted to show that theatre could be relevant to those that believed it was irrelevant and they succeeded.
What Could Have Been Better
As I said previously the characters of Lee and Jamie were well written and fleshed out, but I cannot say the same for the rest of the characters. That is not to say the acting of those were bad because I felt Ian Plunkett, Tony Moynaugh, Stuart Falconer and David Campbell did well with what they were given but these characters could have been developed further.
The only character that I felt really didn’t suit the play was Tait. I felt he was written badly and ultimately acted badly. I didn’t find him threatening and once all the revelations were out, he came across as a whiny child. Not the persona you expect from a head gangster and it undid everything that had come before it.
The story also came apart in the last few minutes. I was confused with what exactly was going on in the last bar fight and wondered how Tam the bartender had come back from the dead to save the day. Doesn’t Tait know how to make sure someone is really dead? The final monologue also had me confused as suddenly there was a message thrown in about the dangers of cocaine, which seemed out of place as the play didn’t seem to be about this at all. It wasn’t the cocaine that had kick started these events, it was the rape. the cocaine was just a way of dealing with it.
The music between scene changes annoyed me as well as the music didn’t really fit and it was horribly cut off as the new scene started. A fade out would have worked better.
Finally let me go back to the idea of setting the play in a pub. I felt this was a great idea as it freed the play from certain constraints but in the last pub scene I felt is also constricted it. The overall staging of that last scene was poor but that was because of the limited space and the fact that the audience were all around them. The end fight wasn’t convincing because there wasn’t space for it to happen and after Tait was stabbed it seemed unnatural for him to walk back across the pub and die on the dance floor.
Most of these points are small niggles that didn’t stop me from enjoying the play but to correct these problems would have made it so much better.
I am very interested to see where Chris and Barry take their vision as the idea of setting it in unconventional venues is a brilliant one. I think there is also more scope to develop true integration of story and venue. To find ways that the audience truly feels that the action is going on around them. Whether this is where Hipshot is going I’m not sure but I would definitely like to see it go that way. For example what would the play have been like if the story took place solely in the pub? What if the fights literally spilled out on to the audience?
I wish Chris and Barry all the best and look forward to seeing their next piece of work.