• ExTS Reviewers

Review: The Hinterland

Written by ExTS Reviewer, Debs Kemp

‘The Hinterland: Riot of a Freelance Mind’

Performed at the Exeter Phoenix on March 2nd, ‘The Hinterland’ was the company’s last night of this co-directed ensemble; a lively and anarchic show. Performed by three accomplished women this devised piece was a reflection on what life can be like working (and often not working) as a freelance creative! It was an autobiographical exploration of their personal ups and downs; seeking that elusive role, the trials and tribulations of the audition process and the personal and financial sacrifices that have to be made.

The show began with three monologues confidently performed by Jane Spurr, Claire Calverley and Natasha Buckley. They shared moments from their own personal journey in the world of theatre and television. Claire Calverley’s monologue accepting that she would never be able to afford the luxuries in life as a TV and voice over artist; Jane Spurr’s monologue exploring the idea of previous roles bringing confidence to future work and Natasha Buckley cleverly weaving a Shakespeare’s Cleopatra into her monologue. There was clear kinship and energy between the performers and the show was regularly interspersed with interruptions out of role, adding to the chaotic nature and underlining the humanity and vulnerability of their experience.

This show had the flavour of the Edinburgh Fringe, rough round the edges, warm, engaging and inclusive. You couldn’t help but enjoy it. The workshop venue provided a close proximity to the actors with plenty of direct address and audience interaction. The latter was the real strength of the piece. In the second half, the audience enjoyed taking on the role of being fellow auditionees; several invited on to the stage to join an entertaining warm-up led by Natasha Buckley as the ‘taking themselves too seriously director’. The audience members on stage fully committed to being boulders and cacti to the dramatic music!

The show was particularly appealing to anyone who has been involved in the acting world or who has taught drama. There were many references to classic drama techniques; even the programme had a playful glossary. A choral moment poking fun at verbatim theatre ‘slash’ conversational pieces, the use of collective gazing at the phone waiting for the call back, and the ball of ‘detritus’ passed around the auditorium signifying that tumble-weed moment, all served to connect us to our own drama experiences. We felt included from beginning to end; invited to laugh at and sympathise with the characters’ predicaments.

There was plenty of comedy in this show but there was also a thread of sadness through the piece; a reminder of the challenge of working in an overcrowded industry with little funding, an industry heavily reliant on the love of one’s art!

Having been an adaptation of an earlier version with a bigger cast, surely the next reincarnation of this play should find its way to Edinburgh….


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