Splintered is a play that shows fragments from three of Tennessee Williams best-known plays, “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “The Glass Menagerie”. This production took place at the Fringe Club in Central on 9th April. Splintered was a school performance, the audience mainly consisted of other students and parents. The stage was a rectangular with the left corner elevated to symbolize a separate space or room. As I had never seen a performance from this school before I had no idea what the standard of acting would be.
The name of the play “Splintered” derived from the fact that it was fragments of three plays, this aspect concerned me as I felt it would be difficult to make a cohesive play from bits of other plays. The quality of acting in this play was very variable; some actors could not act well and displayed emotions by changing the volume of their delivery; normal volume of speaking to shouting when they were angry or upset. Such an actor played Big Daddy from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, he had no facial expressions and never made contact with the audiences, perhaps he was very nervous, he also spat violently when shouting.
He had very rigid movements and his feet seemed planted to the ground, he only ever sat or stood. In one scene he was meant to be saying something very hurtful to another character but the way he said it made it sound like a point of view rather than an insult. This character Big Daddy was very racist, to quote the play a “Red Neck”. Big Daddy’s son, to whom he was shouting out racist slurs, was played by a boy of African descent whose character agreed with everything Big Daddy said. It was impossible to suspend disbelieve and imagine the young African as a white American; this made the audience feel very uncomfortable.
Another aspect that also required ‘suspension of disbelief’ was when Blanche, (a beautiful, damaged and mentally fragile women, who was promiscuous) a character from ‘A Street Car Named Desire’ appeared, played by a very tall, broad shouldered, shaving, male teenager. Admittedly, he played the part very well and was one of the best actors but it really ruined the scene for me and making the situation too unrealistic especially when he (or should I say she) tried to seduce a short chubby boy who seemed very scared that this fiend was going to kiss him.
Blanche’s love interest Mitch was played by a short, huge busted girl; the contrast to the tall male Blanche looked ridiculous and detracted from what should have been a very sad and poignant scene. This same Mitch girl acted an excellent Laura in “A Glass Menagerie”. There seemed no point to the random male/female exchange of role; there appeared to be sufficient male and female actors, it didn’t seem to be undertaken to add humour or to make a special point. It did not add to the authenticity of the play.
Brick and Maggie were the two main characters in this production, as they were often centre stage and in the spotlight. Maggie was very convincing acted, unfortunately Maggie’s counter part Brick, was not so convincing and often half heartedly told her that he could kill her with his walking stick, the response he got from Christina was so passionate and full of emotion that it made the play for me very unrealistic and made it even more difficult to follow the plot. Big Mama and Amanda characters from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ and ‘The Glass Menagerie’ were both played by the same actress.
In order to change roles from Big Mama to Amanda it was necessary for her to drop a massive nightgown on to the ground. Each time this happened you could hear the audience’s amazement with Big Mama stripping on stage. The use of lights, music, soundtracks and props in this play seemed a little disorganised and sometimes pointless or over used. For example, the lights often switched colour for no apparent reason. Once the lights were used to symbolise an open door, this was a good idea but was not clear to the audience, as it was not synchronised with the actor actually opening and closing the door.
A background soundtrack and music were continuously played throughout out the play, perhaps to add atmosphere, this became very confusing because it was not clear whether it was background music or actually meant to be listened to as part of the play. Quite often a sound track of people talking was played for no apparent reason and then repeated in a later scene, maybe this was an accident on the technicians behalf. As a member of the audience I found the continual background noise very tiring and detracted my focus from the action happening on stage.
There were a number of small props but not all the props were supplied, for example sometimes an actor would really have a cup in his hand drinking but the friends he was drinking with in the same scene would be miming holding glasses and drinking. Again this resulted in making the play more unconvincing and disjointed. The set was well prepared and planned, with three different sections for each story- line, this helped the audience follow the fragmented text and also made lighting shifts for different scenes very adaptable.
One aspect of the set that I liked was a blank frame hanging to the right of the stage, which represented a mirror; this allowed the person looking in the mirror to have eye contact with the audience. The only problem with the mirror was that is was a couple of inches too high up for the actress who used it, resulting in only her eyes and the top half of her nose being seen through the mirror, this looked ridiculous. The director of the play was a student and she had undertaken a very difficult project presenting vignettes from three different plays by the same playwright.
Unless the audience were already familiar with Tennessee William’s work it would be very difficult for them to follow the thread of the play presented. It was a very unusual production and the actors had experimented with a number of techniques, such as the cross- dressing. The group I was with certainly left the theatre with plenty to talk about. As a drama student I feel I gained useful insights for any future productions I might be involved with.