Bird song, distant applause, a urinal next to a lorry next to a flower bed. The residents of Eden Court, Leo Black’s idyll of a Council Estate, modelled on Stone Henge, award-winning even, are calling for its demolition. Naively optimistic, he defends his architecture. Around him, his family fall apart.
This is a narrative of family and the cast work well together to create the challenging nuances of each familial relationship. It is a difficult script, full of overlapping scenes that cut between each other, from one character to the next, which demands continual characterisation at a moment’s notice.
Billy (Jonathon Oakman) and Martin (Cassian Bilton) are a particular highlight of the play, and the pair work well together, their relationship utterly believable. As the other characters sink into their own despair, Billy quotes ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, sings country music, dreams of “fucking off to the sunshine” with the reluctant Martin. Oakman’s energy keeps the play moving, and his endearing optimism, as a he teeters on the roof edge of a tower block, makes his story undeniably moving.
Helena Wilson’s portrayal of Leo’s wife is brilliantly written and equally well played. Neurotic and vacant, there is a dulled coldness to her character, almost expressionless, which Wilson captures. Jack Clover as the lorry driver adds touches of comedy to the relentless bleakness of the family atmosphere. Amongst them, Leo Black can see only his precious architecture, an oblivious one track mind.
From an acting perspective there is no weak link. As scenes jump between each other, the actors maintain character, energy and focus. It is undoubtedly a challenge but this cast is not to be daunted. They are supported by a brilliant set design (Abby Clark) that captures the interlinking worlds of the play visually before the first line has even been said. The music (Harry Davidson) which veers between synthed beats that drop like heartbeats, and the country music that several of the characters secretly love, creates a flawless sound world.
This is student theatre at its best, human and moving. It is about people, real conversations that overlap. It is about lives that link together, neither happy nor ultimately sad, but life that goes onwards. With an outstanding cast to support an ambitious and challenging play, ‘The Architect’, under Sam Ward’s direction, is an incredibly powerful piece of theatre.
‘The Architect’ is playing at the Keble O’Reilly, 4th-7th March, 2:30 and 7:30 on Saturday 7th.