Review: Numbers, CTC Ipswich, The Avenue Theatre, Ipswich
- Credit: Mike Kwasniak
Named one of the best plays of all time for women, this was the right choice and the right time for the company to show it can do straight drama.
CTC’s reputation for big musicals is well-known, but could it focus that bravado into something smaller, tighter yet still as satisfying? The answer, for the most part, is definitely.
Kieron Barry’s one-act play is billed as Mean Girls meets Lords of the Flies. A vicious battle of wills breaks out between four sixth formers at an all girls boarding school the hour before a new head girl is announced.
Friendships and loyalties are tested as ambition leads to betrayal. The disputed role is just the catalyst for the girls to show their true colours when it comes to class, privilege, morality and how far you go to fit in. The play is hilarious with verbal barbs zipping to and fro from the get-go. As it progresses things become brutal as the tension between the four escalates. What once was funny, is now uncomfortable. By laughing, you’re complicit in their behaviour.
Despite regular gasps from the audience, I wonder if that mounting malice could’ve been pushed a tad more at times. Some added venom, more coldness could’ve sold some lines a bit better but I’m being picky because I know this is a company that relishes making bold choices.
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Director Madeleine Mears gets great performances from the cast who attacked the material with gusto.
Livvy Campbell-Barr was great as supposed shoo-in for head girl Katherine, whose perfect life crumbles. Cameron Jarrold as Isabel was a great foil for her. Lucy Stokes as Jennifer showed sharp comic awareness.
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Beth Shave as kind-hearted Hetty may not have got the lion’s share of the best lines but her quiet, resillient performance was the heart of the piece. Her one act of defiance showing she, Katherine, Isabel and Jennifer may not be as different as they all think.
The cleverly choreographed cacophany of overlapping conversation was handled well. There were some first night stumbles but it actually worked for the piece; who in real life gets everything right when stressed?
A smart play probably more relevant than ever, executed almost flawlessly. CTC continues to be one to watch.