The Maiden’s Toy, presented by Theatre with Teeth and written by Olly Lawson, proved an interesting piece of theatre. The company’s aim is to “challenge dramatic boundaries to create bold, new and relevant theatre”, and that philosophy certainly came across in the production.
My attention was grabbed a few days before the production by the online promotion; the clever graphic designs from Laura Betts, the publicity officer, set the play up well, making the normally conventional cast photos uniquely surreal, and this fitted well with the overall feeling of the play.
The Maiden’s Toy opens with an ambitious director trying to find the leading man for her latest production, ‘The Agepa of Nabis’. From the offset, Marthë Taylor succeeds in portraying Georgia, the director, in a suitably creepy manner. As the play continues it becomes increasingly clear that her ambitions for her leading man are far from professional. Ryan O’Grady’s Jenson, Georgia’s unsuspecting actor, plays his character’s initial innocence very believably, and remains solid throughout.
The production was staged in the recently refurbished Chesterfield Lounge of Hole in the Wall, and – although an unconventional space – it certainly accorded with the society’s aim to challenge boundaries. The play was an intense affair, and the tightly-packed audience members only made it more so. This, combined with a clever piece of audience interaction, blurred the line between the play and those watching, to the point that it felt as though the audience were an integral part of the production itself.
THE VENUE CERTAINLY ACCORDED WITH THE SOCIETY’S AIM TO CHALLENGE BOUNDARIES
Cameron Beer’s constantly exasperated Milo and George Fincher’s insightful Trapper were the stand out performers of the evening, and when the two share a scene alone, the room comes alive with laughter. Despite this, Trapper’s consistently perceptive comments are ignored by the other characters, and at times this falls into farce: as if we’re in a pantomime, and Trapper is shouting “He’s behind you!”, with the rest of the cast refusing to listen. However, once Trapper is finally heard, the real action of the play begins, and when it does, the production really comes into its own.
Antonia Whillans had an obvious chemistry with her leading man, and she plays Alaia very convincingly. She especially shines during her scenes as Agepa, the female lead in the play within the play. Indeed, these scenes are the most enjoyable of the evening, with O’Grady and Whillans fully embracing the complex passages of ‘The Agepa of Nabis’.
While the play did at times suffer from a lack of proper sound and lighting, with noise from the other bar seeping into the room, the director tried his best to remedy this and used the already-existing bar in the performance space to his advantage. Perhaps this was an inevitable result of the group’s desire to create bold theatre, and if that is the trade-off for the unique performance given, then it is definitely a price worth paying.
To find more Theatre With Teeth productions, take a look at their Facebook page.