Theatre Review: Abandoned, Little Man Coffee Company, Cardiff
The opening of Dramatic Moose Productions debut play Abandoned was performed in the basement of Cardiff’s Little Man Coffee Company on Thursday evening. Performed as close as possible to an “In the round” set up, the play allowed the audience in a relaxed environment intimate access to the characters and the unfolding events.
The drama focuses on a “what if…” should the United Kingdom fall into the hands of invading terrorists. To survive, small groups of people band together, and Abandoned, written and directed by Matthew Fisher, focuses on one such group as two new members arrive on the scene.
Ray and Stacey are captured by group member Leo and it quickly becomes apparent that Stacey is an old friend of the group leader, Sarah. The new arrivals soon find that if there are even stronger power plays and tensions within the group than those that exist under threat from “them” in the outside world.
Further group members are unveiled, another old friend of Stacey’s, the flirtatious Sarah, the uptight Jeff and the jovial Tank. It quickly becomes apparent that not everybody or everything are as they seem. Secrets are exposed, and emotions rise as characters interact and react to each other, putting the group at danger from one another as well as those that threaten them from outside.
Fisher’s script is well paced, intense, emotive and in places, funny. It would be easy to take the previously well-trodden path of rebels in an unfamiliar world struggling with an all-encompassing threat. Instead Fisher’s script focuses on the real issues of his characters and the traumas that have individually affected them which become magnified under a terrorist invasion. The tensions become very authentic as the characters struggle to deal with rejection, bullying, sexuality and relationships in claustrophobic conditions.
Ben Wilson and Isabelle Burman play new arrivals Ray and Stacey. Flung straight into the action, the pair respond to a variety of scenarios with fluctuating emotions. Burman’s Stacey recently separated from her family, undergoes a definitive character change as she reacts to betrayal while Wilson’s Ray displays mystery and intrigue throughout the drama.
Lisa Grace combines outer strength and an inner fragility as Group Leader Jane. A character whose personality is not as straight forward as it first seems, Grace as Jane creates strong interaction with her fellow actors which is pivotal to holding an already fractured group together. Close by Jane's side is the seemingly streetwise Leo, played by Teddy Smith, whose character takes a dramatic twist mid-way through the story, changing the audience perception of him.
Terrance Edwards gives an endearing performance as Jeff, an Anime fan who doesn’t like the caricatured world he is now belongs in or trust the people that inhabit it. Christopher Maxwell has the challenge of balancing the many facets that are the ticking time-bomb persona of Tank. Beneath Tank’s somewhat jovial but bullish persona, Maxwell delivers a loving caring persona that has been affected by personal tragedy.
Sarah Bennington makes up the third strong female role of the cast as Sarah. Flirtatious, deceptive but also warm and friendly, it would be easy to dislike Sarah’s character, but Bennington brings some depth that shows she’s a bit more than an attention seeker and has been surviving life longer than the stories ongoing threat suggests.
Because Abandoned is performed with minimalist props in an intimate scenario, much was down to the actors to deliver the script with conviction, something no member of the audience could have disputed.
The first three performances of Abandoned are sold out, a triumph in all ways for Dramatic Moose Productions. Here’s to the production receiving a wider audience in the future.