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These guys below aren’t just a pretty (clock)face…

Who knows what play will represent TG in next year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but thanks to innovative directorial visions and powerful performances from Workshop Theatre Students, it is already standing in comfortable stead. This could represent a new phase in the recognition of theatre produced by University of Leeds students.

Theatre review: Splinters of Light

Published Date: 31 August 2009
By DAVID POLLOCK
****

SWEET ECA (VENUE 186)
REMEMBER the name Airborne Theatre. If you spot them appearing at the Fringe in future, be advised to go along and see whatever they put on.

Airborne proved to be unexpectedly impressive for such a young company with last year’s Jumping and Other Thoughts at the Underbelly. This new play provides the evidence their previous show wasn’t just a happy accident.

Thoughtful, rich in character, well performed and blessed with a powerfully emotional denouement, it’s the work of raw talents who seriously deserve to be world-beaters once they’ve built the necessary experience. Co-directors Alice Carter and Stephanie Jane De-Whalley weren’t involved behind the scenes last year, although De-Whalley gave a great onstage performance.

Last year’s play and this one share similar foundations. Where Jumping was based on a consideration of the use of darkroom photography, Splinters of Light is about time: the science of it, our perception of it and – as with the analogue click and whirr of an SLR camera – the plain old tactile thrill of hearing and feeling a ticking clock on your wrist.

The Leeds-based company seem to have a continuing fascination with the retro. This time their quirky story tells of Austin (Conor Whelan), a teenage boy who appears to be quite seriously autistic.

His single mother (Emily Slater) dotes on him, but despairs at the effort of supporting a boy who is so obsessive-compulsive that he will only play with marbles and toy soldiers in the same corner of his room and will scream the house down unless she reads him a particular historical text about the Battle of Monte Cassino every night. His doctor (Naomi Stafford) says she has never seen such a combination of disorders before.

Austin’s obsessions are unfathomable, but time and order seem to be at the heart of them, as represented by Rebecca Haines’s amusingly crackpot Old Father Time analogue, who provides oblique narrative.

The entire piece is constructed to perfection, though, and the dramatic, heart-swelling finale demonstrates beautifully how Austin’s almost alien mind is just trying to make sense of the same questions we all ask.

Until today, 2:35pm.