I’m not keen on “feels” in my media, I’m looking to be entertained like a Roman emperor watching a gladiator fight for vengeance. So watching the latest (and first) play by Caroline C Chattaway which talks about how it feels to be an immigrant I should be a bit wary.
We all know the story of the Titanic, and although the sinking of the great liner features on the poster this isn’t about the night with the iceberg. Instead this play is about the kind of person who would have been on that fateful voyage, those who left their lives in Europe to start anew in America. Tempest Tossed is about the people who did arrive, and how the dream turned out.
I’ll be honest now this is not an unbiased review, the playwright happens to be Mrs G. After years of wanting to write something that was known outside of her hard drive she finally printed off a script for our local dramatic group, the Bedworth Theatre Company.
So with that in mind you’d expect this to be a review full of platitudes, and you would be right. Not because if I was mean like most “critics” try to be (because that’s good copy) I’d be sleeping in a different bed tonight, but I’m going to be full of praise because it was good.
I think the best praise I can give is that I feel sad that I wasn’t in it. The other dramatic performances I want to be in are Les Mis and Macbeth, they’re pretty good as well. This was Mrs G’s first play and all I can think is that it didn’t sound like it.
It had lots of words in but they told a story, and an interesting story. It wasn’t convoluted like a Stoppard and the monologues were as full of pathos as a Bennett. It was a professional script written by an amateur, but only in the sense that she did it without pay, while being a mother, wife and a full-time teacher. Shakespeare had patrons, Mrs G had to the washing up.
It was also performed by amateurs, but again not in the pejorative. I’ve been in a number of plays with these guys and although the performances are normally strong tonight they, like the Bums of the Dodgers, knocked it out of the park. Being asked to do New York accents without sounding like a cliché while acting out the scenes is a challenge and one that was more than met. I know these people and I’m now convinced that their everyday accents are the ones they are putting on.
The direction was brilliant, rather than sticking a row of seats facing the stage we all felt that we were the walls of a New York bodega eavesdropping into these people’s lives. The inventive use of monologues and frozen characters really let you feel the inner turmoil of these immigrants who are trying to create themselves a new life in the new world.
Also I have been in a number of plays with The Bedworth Theatre Company, but I cannot remember a better looking stage or set of costumes. It screamed 1910’s New York and was so cleverly put together.
There has been a lot of hard work put in to this play, and it shows. I’ve been to plays from other Am-Dram groups where they have trained actors, semi-professional directors, bigger budgets and rehearsals many times a week. Yet none of them hold a candle to this. This is because this play has a lot of love in it and the love and dedication put in by all shines through, and I’m so proud of Mrs G.
What it’s about is not important, but it’s about what happens when you leave your home and how do you change without changing. How can you be more of a native while still being treated as an immigrant. It is a personal play because this is the challenge the playwright is going through. Yet thus play should show her that like the success of Tempest Tossed she has also succeeded in these challenges. She got a bunch of people to put on a play she wrote, if she can do that then there isn’t anything she can’t do.
Should you see this play, yes. Can you now, no. Its limited run is over, but now it us up to others to take it on.