Oxford – Burton Taylor Studio – 7 to 10 April 10 – 20:00 (0.50)
A charming show which incorporates dance, physical theatre and fantasy, First Class is a fifty minute production that delights.
It opens with a man wearing a red diamond-patterned jumper and he’s holding a parcel. He is waiting for something or someone. He’s standing at a counter with a post office leaflet on top. Cough. He finds a bell and rings it.
From behind the counter a woman pops up called Beatrice (Bea). She is wearing a uniform of sorts – black jacket, white shirt, red patterned neckerchief, white trousers and black pumps. Her brunette hair is braided (French plait). He wants to post the parcel. She works at the post office but is more interested in selling dreams than stamps. Bea wants the man – Michael Bates – played by Nir Paldi to take a holiday to Paris.
It may seem a presumptuous question but Bea – Amy Nostbakken – is a presumptuous girl. Bea embodies a dream of a better, brighter life – escapism and wonder. Bea is bubbly and dramatic with an odd sounding American accent; Michael is quiet and reserved and sounds vaguely Middle Eastern – a normal, everyday British man – a juxtaposition of characters.
Michael seems interested in what Bea says which encourages her to draw him into her fantasy world. Suddenly the fantasy affects everyone – Paris is the city of love and as Bea speaks of the Eiffel tower small romantic lights shine at the front of the stage. Bea jumps up at Michael and spontaneously they are dancing and recreating well known French dances including the cancan, carousels, mimicking fireworks and physically creating the Eiffel tower with their bodies.
The lighting design by Jules Richardson is perfect for the mood of each scene, from the Eiffel tower lights to a moody blue stage when Bea tells a sad tale of a captain on a boat, a woman called Josephine and her baby. Direction by The Company is perfectly timed for First Class, there are fast moments when the boat becomes a speedboat with Michael as the captain, followed by slow, seductive scenes but the show is always moving forward and feels exactly the right length. It doesn’t stop, even for a costume change, Bea and Michael just disappear behind the auditorium (audience’s seats), talking as they walk, and reappear with Bea in a sexy black dress before she begins sensual, but also funny, solo jazz dance moves and sings in French.
Sound Design by Amy Nostbakken is smart and seamless, her song is repeated on the speaker and it is though the fantasy is becoming reality. Michael is scared and intrigued by the world she’s showing him, sometimes he just wants to post his parcel but sometimes he allows himself to be swept up. Ultimately he is fascinated by everything she does. First Class has some memorable dialogue. Bea says she could tell that Michael is capable of being more than what he is, that he has a ‘certain swagger’ and ‘big red – shouldn’t be wound so tight’ referring to his red jumper.
Michael is funny as the comic foil, the straight guy. Bea is dynamic, extraordinary, the storyteller. He’s practical. She’s a dreamer. Props are used sparingly and to great effect, a corkscrew takes on a life and dance of its own, the parcel doubles as a shipwreck and the post office counter contains – well, let’s not spoil the ending.
First Class,written collaboratively by The Company, lives up to its title. It is a visual treat and a sweet escape.
Cast Credits: (alpha order): Amy Nostbakken – Beatrice. Nir Paldi – Michael Bates.
Company Credits: Writer – The Company. Director – The Company. Lighting Design – Jules Richardson. Sound Design – Amy Nostbakken. Technician/Operator – George Mann. Costumes – uncredited. Props – uncredited. Producer – uncredited. Company: Theatre Adinfinitum. Company: Half Wit Theatre. http://www.theatreadinfinitum.co.uk http://www.halfwittheatre.com
(c) Wendy Thomson 2010
reviewed Saturday 10th April 2010