Since last week’s show at the Burton Taylor Studio, a relatively small change had been made to the arrangement of the audience seating, but it was the first thing that interested me about ‘Noose’. Whether or not it was intentional, the result was to allow the acting space, connected to the thin gap through the audience that constituted the actors’ only entrance and exit, to take on the rough shape of a noose. Rather ominously or perhaps just fittingly, the action of the play took place inside the loop of this noose and beneath the literal one that hung from a beam throughout.
Then we are introduced to Jacques (Ali Porteous) and Seraphine (Micha Pinnington), who seem to pass days without much direction or contact with the world outside their home. They used to have a ‘rhythm’, she muses, but they have now lost it, and somewhere along the line the life appears to have been sucked out of her. She appears resigned to and unmoved by death, and is just waiting for the right day to end it all. Porteous is often breathless and constantly fiddling with parts of the set, whilst Pinnington remains composed, and as if she is in a waiting room, often staring blankly ahead of her. At first it seemed as if Pinnington would drive the tension, and Porteous the comedy, but soon he displayed, as well his comic timing, his capacity to quickly transition, creating a convincingly volatile character. Adding further tension to the dynamic is the arrival of an American Christian pilgrim, played by Josh Dolphin. Dolphin (also the play’s director) is rather captivating, adopting a well-paced and menacingly calm delivery and able to twist the tone of the scene subtly but effortlessly from one line to the next, all alongside a faultless American accent. I suppose credit is also due to James Soulsby as the dead body, having to be put to rest in a bin and remain there for the best part of 45 minutes.
Anthony Maskell’s script is fairly mature, not drawing too much attention to itself but cropping up with insightful highlights from time to time, and drawing frequent laughs from the audience. Upon hearing the line ‘it’s not fair to know someone better than they know you’ I had the lovely feeling of having something you’ve previously felt being put neatly into words in front of you. Overall, the script doesn’t seem to rely heavily on plot but instead creates a gentle exploration of the play’s themes, and manages to allude to these in dialogue-driven scenes without descending into clichéd extended metaphor.
‘Noose’ might not be the best play you see this term, but it is an enjoyable, nuanced example of new student writing with a strong cast, and I’d recommend going along to support and immerse yourself in the creative outputs of your fellows!
Image // Anthony Maskell