'Cast Aside' - A Definite Hit!
Sophie Swithinbank reviews the play by Tim Wallers, set in the world of showbiz
Tim Wallers’ second play ‘Cast Aside’ is dramatic, dangerously meta-textual and fruitfully funny. Although this was a rehearsed reading with scripts on stage, this play will most definitely become a hit. Only twenty-four hours to familiarise themselves with the punchy script, and the seven relatively unknown actors of ‘Cast Aside’ still made the evening a near-perfect success. They were all, thankfully, cast very well indeed.
Advertised as a comedy about ‘love, loneliness and the roles we play’ in life and in the world of showbiz, this play set out to amuse those who have some knowledge of the merciless industry. It would also strike a chord with anyone who has ever been alone, been in love or been rejected (both professionally and romantically), which I think is almost everyone.
When I take my seat in St Michael and All Angels Parish Hall and read through the programme, my first thought is that the cast list is rather extensive for such a small stage. Turns out that Wallers packs in a whole host of characters to fill this drama with drama, squeezing them onto the stage. We have, in order of appearance, Daisy, assistant to casting director, Alexia. Alexia is the lead, played by Christina Balmer who almost steals the show. We have the untimely distractions of Peter and Reverend Matthew, who exasperate the already neurotic Alexia. Producer Robert - Alexia’s ex-husband - has left her for Serena, an American actress. Playwright Cordelia is struggling with her second play and with her lust for Robert. Emily Wallis who plays Cordelia deserves a mention here. In this supporting role she shines out through the tall men who crowd the stage, oozing style, passion and intelligence. Finally, we have Josh, a dashingly handsome, terrible actor who dubiously weans his way into the world of success by sleeping with Alexia who is twice his age.
Having scripts on stage creates a refreshing sense of nervousness and adrenaline, which made the room feel very alive but resulted in important pauses being lost from the script. For example, I’m sure Wallers would have included an extended stunned pause when Robert enters Alexia’s office after a five and a half year absence. That is a long time and deserves a long pause. Another lost pause occurs after the first mention of Alexia’s suicide attempt. This is shocking amidst all the comedy and wine and friendly telephone calls. The audience needs time to take that in before they move on to their next big laugh. But Balmer is on a role, speeding forth. She is, understandably, too full of uncertainty in the script to allow the pause.
The play is set in Alexia’s casting office into which this gaggle of characters relentlessly appear, one by one, two by two or all at once. During the first fifteen minutes of the play I don’t laugh. The humour seems dated and I worry that I am going to have to endure rather than enjoy. But then the play warms up to itself and the actors warm up to their scripts and its almost a laugh a minute. It is full of genuinely up-to-date British humour, with exclamations like, ‘it’s a British film, there is no money,’ appealing directly to its audience of middle-class Creatives who struggle on, but have a nice time doing it.
Wallers makes great use of overhearing secret things from inside the office cupboard. This clever Shakespearean ploy is reminiscent of poor Malvolio sneaking around in ‘Twelfth Night’. It is used more than once and the repetition only adds to the thrill and comedy gold.
The first act could be a play in its own right. The second act is full of sexual twists, popular with the masses, but not entirely necessary. And unfortunately tension is lost in the weak last line, ‘Alexia?’ spoken by Robert as he stares into the middle ground after she has jumped out of the window. This is the climax. Everyone is onstage and we see that they are all in this dirty creative game together. Wallers achieves the only comical suicide ending I have ever seen attempted on stage or screen, as Alexia jumps out the window, lands on a bed that is being put into the new hotel across the road, and lies there, seemingly canoodling with a priest.
So much happens in this play that it could be divided up and made into a television series, but Wallers handles the dialogue expertly, and is concise where necessary. Romance, loneliness and sex are as central to the plot as the casting dilemmas, painting a true picture of working in today’s creative industry.
June 26, 2015