Lucy
Nordberg


When All The Crowds Have Gone Reviews

When All The Crowds Have Gone

Lucy Nordberg’s play belies expectation. I was unsure whether this tale, of self-made mogul John differing with his biographer on the theme of his life story, would be sufficient to capture my attention. Surely a conflict between biographer and subject is what everyone expects? However, the familiar themes of sibling rivalry and the (ab)use of money to exert power are set within an entertaining exposé of John’s personal drama. The more I reflect on the play, the more I’m convinced it brings a fresh perspective to the human dilemma.

John chooses to commission brother Geoffrey to write the story of his life, outwardly because of Geoffrey’s publishing success. But it wasn’t difficult to discern the underlying psychological need: John’s desire to persuade Geoffrey of his own achievements. Far from falling prey to John’s pretensions, Geoffrey will only agree to write a version of his life which obviates the material achievement John has on show, trapping him in the shortcomings of their childhood. We watch each brother weave his view of the past into their present relationships with Miranda and Helen, who couldn’t be more different yet suffer a similar burden: their spouses’ inability to trust that they are enough.

The juxtaposition of a story within the story – John is funding a film and we meet the motley crew he employs – is on the face of it a welcome, light-hearted diversion. But it also serves to further intensify the plight of the central characters. Happily, as an outcome of his reunion with his brother, John has a chance to evade his destiny: that of rich and lonely old man, when all the crowds have gone.

The unimpressive surroundings of the Brighthelm community hall demanded we conjure John’s ostentatious Californian mansion from our imaginations. But a clever use of props guided us: John’s guests use a pair of statues as hat-stands, providing comic relief whilst underlining the flimsy sham he has created in place of authentic self-expression. The stage was constructed of decking, just large enough for the long dining table and chairs which contained each scene; John’s heavy stature seemed to teeter on the edge of the set, impressing upon me that, like his house, he was not for real. Interestingly, the audience sat in rows on either side of the table, effectively drawing the crowd in.

The play was delivered with panache, and struck a comfortable balance between humour and intensity. Lucy Nordberg has the actors of Pendragon Enterprises to thank for this, all of whom appeared at ease in their characters’ clothes. I make special mention of ‘aspiring actress’ Angelina Purschel: her portrayal of the shallow, fame-hungry Candy could so easily have deteriorated into pantomime, but she skilfully created a three-dimensional young woman aspiring to a life beyond the glamour we might have expected to consume her. With blonde locks, oversized shades, bling and colourful itsy-bitsy outfits she was the most convincing of characters – but all these actors deserve an audience, so go see!

Catherine Meek, Fringe Guru


When All The Crowds Have Gone

Low Down

An intricate story that follows two brothers. One is a successful businessman, the other a very humble writer of biographies. Over a short space of time, their lives change when the writer is asked to write a biography for the businessman. Nothing is personal, purely business. Yet an intense rollercoaster ride takes place and no one is the same again.

Review

The first thing the audience noticed when walking into the performance space was a setting for an ‘in the round’ performance. A modern living room with clean and sharp lines and two very interesting statues of a Buddha and a dragon on the side tables, possibly signifying someone with wealth and extravagance who lived there.

What evolved from this rather flamboyant scene was a subtle and intense piece of theatre from Chris Hislop and Lucy Nordberg, showcasing the journey of human emotions and how far they can be pushed when significant life changing events occur. We as the audience experienced everything all at once - love, business vs. pleasure, jealousy, frivolity vs. simplicity and lust. All because of two brothers coming together to conduct some business in America, despite it being shown as a weekend away essentially.

Geoffrey (younger brother) was given the task of writing the biography of John (older brother). All in all it sounds like a simple task, but as we discovered, the brothers are not that close and have led significantly separate lives. Both Trevor Scales and Bob Gilchrist had a good working relationship during their scenes together and really portrayed the brothers well.

Trevor Scales showed John to be flamboyant and shallow, yet had a really good emotional journey as he disliked the ever growing closeness of his wife Miranda (played by Jessica Jordan-Wrench) and Geoffrey. His intense jealousy was raw and you almost felt sorry for him. The fact that he took you on that journey really shows his passion as an actor. This is someone to watch out for in future productions.

Bob Gilchrist however had a pleasant contrast from John. Geoffrey is shown at first to be the more weak of the two, but it turns out that his journey is one of growth and becoming stronger as a person as he becomes more firm in what he believes in. As you watch Bob’s performance, you can see that his subtlety is very well controlled and as an audience member, you find yourself silently cheering for him - even when he leaves in a dignified manner with his agent wife Helen (played by Valerie Dent), despite finding out she had an affair with John. Again, a very strong actor to look out for in the future.

The whole cast in fact was very strong and no one let themselves down. The only thing is that at the beginning of the piece, the cast need to have more conviction in what they are saying in order to convey the awkwardness of being reunited as a family. Apart from that, every single performance was focussed and extremely enjoyable to watch.

Despite the seriousness of the piece, there were plenty of light hearted comedy moments. This was in particular from the scenes in which we get to meet John’s colleagues and next door neighbours as they plan to do a movie, where a lot of subjects are close to home - sometimes a little too close for comfort. We see this in particular when the pleasantly portrayed Miranda comes into contact with an ‘air-head’ model Candy (wonderfully portrayed by Angelina Purschel). The moments of the serious actress as opposed to the deliberately bad acting of Candy really heighten the comedy of the play within the play as we see some of the movie scenes being demonstrated to the dinner party guests. What really worked in particular with this scene was the way in which everyone was slowly pulled into reading a character from the movie. This not only challenged the characters as people, but it gave a very different insight to the awkwardness of the situation created by all involved.

A special mention has to go to Janine Robins and Chris Jones who play the next door neighbours and daytime chat show celebrites Janet and Franklin. Janet’s cutting edge sarcastic quips as opposed to Franklin’s outrageous and outgoing personality really worked well as a whole and added a new and exciting dynamic to the proceedings. This came to the fore in particular as Franklin’s reputation is at stake after ‘drama lessons’ for Candy. Both actors had a good chemistry between them and one wondered if they were really just good friends and not something else…

When All The Crowds Have Gone is naturalistic theatre at its best. Do not miss this exciting new show.

Sascha Cooper, Fringe Review