Giverny Masso, Exeposé Arts
Entering The Bike Shed theatre, the audience are heaving with anticipation for the sold out play. Having reviewed Substance and Shadow Theatre’s Skin Deep in June, I have high expectations, knowing what the company are capable of.
Duplicity opens with a poetic monologue from Fabie, played by Joana Crisostomo. Following this, Midge Mullin takes the stage, playing the roles of identical twin brothers, Tommy and Finn, who grew up working in the circus. Tommy then leaves to realise his dream of joining a punk rock band, whilst Finn remains at the circus, crippled by the illness of polio.
Oscillating between these two roles, Midge faces a difficult acting challenge. I initially have my doubts about whether or not he can pull this off, but these uncertainties are obliterated after the first switch-over. Throughout the play Midge’s acting is of an exceptional quality. His characterisation of each brother is brilliant, with control maintained over every detail of his facial expression, posture, gait, and tone of voice.
Apart from a couple of hesitations on lines, the rest of the acting is also highly commendable, with impeccable accents maintained throughout. Rachel Milne portrays Tommy’s girlfriend, Ultra Violet, oozing a ‘punk rock’ attitude with her sultry scowl and slouched posture.
I particularly enjoy Nathan Simpson’s depiction of the comical band manager, Leonard Silver. Nathan’s dancing is hilarious, and has the whole audience in fits of laughter. Nathan fluently transitions from initially providing comic relief, to developing his character’s much darker side which later has serious implications for the others.
Whilst Midge, Nathan and Rachel have equally developed and prominent roles, Joana Crisostomo has comparatively much less time of stage which seems a little asymmetric. All four of the actors, however, do not falter for a split second with their energy. This energy gives the play its kick, and entirely illuminates the sparse Bike Shed stage.
Multimedia has been used cleverly. A projector screen on the back wall, sound effects and music help set the scenes, and add emphasis to the action. I particularly enjoy the use of punk rock to link scenes, which adds a sense of urgency and excitement I imagine to be reminiscent of the era.
Once again, Substance and Shadow live up to their name, delivering theatre which flickers between moments of light and dark, love and hate, connection and isolation. Rose and Midge Mullin have successfully written a play which simultaneously entertains us, taking us back in time to the punk rock era, and urges us to reflect by exploring our notions of identity, family and love.
I eagerly await Substance and Shadow Theatre’s next endeavour, having immensely enjoyed all I have seen so far. The Exeter audience absolutely love the play, and I believe that Substance and Shadow Theatre make a valuable contribution to the arts scene in the city.