I entered Sandy’s Bar to find two rows of seating for the audience to face each other, creating a makeshift theatre-in-the-round with the two actresses sitting on stools in the centre, already in character, silently staring at each other. This show was beyond sold out; audience members quickly filled up the allocated seating, more seats were brought in, and some attendees resorted to sitting on the ground. This gave a favourable preview to the show as word of mouth and high attendance are two of the most reliable reviews out there.
The show takes place in a time in Britain where Westminster has begun to implement laws that limit the amount of words that each person can speak – the most dramatic law only allowing 140 words per day. The two actors portray a couple whose views on the “Quiet Laws” are fairly different: one is a barrister that plans on staying quiet about the changes while the other is a musician that falls into leading protests against the laws. The show addresses censorship and how even if people are as concise as possible, more words will always be needed. The couple is stopped mid-fight because one of them runs out of words they can say, while other scenes show attempts to learn Morse code or create an abbreviated language so they can maximise their ability to communicate each day. The show was performed beautifully by actresses Molly Williams and Audrey McBride, with the skilled direction of Rowan Wishart and Gabriele Uboldi.
However, while Sandy’s gives an interesting venue and caters to the single room, one act show, it is not ideal. Throughout the show, especially in rather intimate, quiet moments, you could hear the clattering of billiards balls and “Shape of You” playing through the speakers in the Main Bar, which ruined the mood for this audience member. Additionally, it was not completely clear when scene changes or flashbacks occurred during the show since the venue was a single room and the set was comprised of two stools.
This was the second show of the On the Rocks festival that I saw this year which dealt with the subject of personal freedoms being limited. A student arts festival such as this allows for budding artists, actors, and directors to express themselves and their worries about the world that they’re in or entering after their studies finish. These shows give a voice to young artists and I commend the success of On the Rocks for supporting these trends. On the Rocks 2017 was a complete success and I look forward to what On the Rocks 2018 will bring.