(SUDS Director, Producer and Cast, photo by SUDS)
August: Osage County is without a doubt, the best SUDS play I have ever seen. The acting was perfection, the script masterfully handled and the whole production was ten times more convincing and moving than the John Wells 2013 film adaptation.
The play was written by Tracy Letts in 2008 and is set in rural Oklahoma. It is all about modern western families and explores the idea that no matter how old we get, or how far away we move, we can never escape the emotional burdens of our past.
The story begins with Beverly Weston, (Rowan MacAskill), telling his new housekeeper, Johnna, (Alex Avallone), about his life. Beverly was a teacher and poet in past years, but now he is a disillusioned man with alcohol as his only friend and comfort. His wife, Violet, (Elizabeth Clutterbuck), is a neurotic mess with mouth cancer, and her turbulent behaviour consistently threatens their marital happiness.
But when Beverly goes out one day and never comes back, Violet calls her three daughters and sister to the ancestral home in hope of support. But as they all decent on the house, it is clear that this is one unhappy family.
(Charlotte Ryder, Tessa Richards and Duncan Lawrie, photo by SUDS)
As the days go by and the fate of Beverly is revealed, tensions rise in the Weston household and dark secrets come out to play. With much shouting, screaming and assaults, this family reunion pushes everyone to breaking point and forces them to face the ugly truth of who they’ve all become.
But as the curtain closes, and everyone has left, one truth remains. In the reality of modern families and all the dysfunctional drama they bring, no amount of going in circles and talking over the hurt will change anything. We can blame each other as much as we want, but at the end of the day, if we want things to change, we need to put all of the hurt down and actively chose to move on. Or else we are left as nothing more than lonely, broken people, stuck in the same old nightmare.
But that’s the story, so how was the play? As I said earlier, this was without a doubt the best SUDS play I have ever seen. Everything was up to scratch and it had the air of a professional West End production.
The entire cast were excellent. Eilidh Nurse gave a hilarious performance as Mattie Fae. Calum Swan was wonderfully decrepit and heartfelt as Charlie Aiken. Cameron Watson was sweet and timid as Little Charles Aiken. Megan Milne was fabulous as Karen Weston. Heather McNeill was tremendously tragic as Ivy Weston. Duncan Lawrie was great as the philosophical and selfish Bill Fordham. Tessa Richards was a convincingly muddled up Jean Fordham. James Craig was comical and seedy as Steve. Alex Avallone played the quiet and loyal Johnna with delicacy. Ross Provan played the gentle and thoughtful Sherrif with skill. And Rowan MacAskill, even although he was only in the play briefly, depicted the turmoil of Beverly sensationally, maintaining his reputation as one of SUDS’s most versatile actors. The cast engaged with the comple personalities of their characters and through the dark comedy they were able to make me feel amused, moved, angry and disgusted all at the same time, a skill which is increadibly difficult in the theatre which lacks the same momentism construction as film.
(Elizabeth Clutterbuck, photo by SUDS)
However, the show was stolen by Charlotte Ryder and Elizabeth Clutterbuck who played Barbara and Violet. They grabbed everyone’s attention and truly embodied the energy and singularity of their characters. Equally funny, moving and alarming, Ryder and Clutterbuck carried the dark and honest themes of this cynical play to perfection.
The script was beautifully handled. Any play that predominantly focuses on dialogue is tricky. But well done to Director, Calum Moore, and Producer, Callum Downs, for making the scenes and concepts run together smoothly and for allowing the drama to evolve in the natural and sophisticated way that Lett’s created.
All in all, this was a magnificent play which dealt with the multiple themes of the play in a very mature and eloquent way. But most importantly, it really reflected the best of what SUDS has to offer both on stage and behind the scenes. I very much look forward to the next one!
By Caroline Malcolm