It is very tempting to be scared of silence in theatre. But to use it effectively is a sign of a good acting. The Flick‘s director, Isabel Ion, has silence twisted round her little finger. In a two and a half hour performance, this cast of three and a half actors use scraps, little nothings, and broken bits of communication to craft a poignant whole. The Flick takes the everyday, the mundane, even the awkward, and churns out a kind of epic story.
Somehow, even though nothing special happened, it turned out to be a tale of betrayal and unrequited love, of depression and happiness. There was something to do with the meaning of life, and something to do with feminism, racism, classicism and ableism. There was even a hint of Shakespeare’s sentiment ‘all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players’. Something about how we all put on a character. Something about integrity. Something about identity. How a play where nothing happens can touch on so many themes, I don’t know, but it is surely down to a strong script and good casting. This play featured what is probably one of the best combination of actors I have ever seen in Oxford, and possibly even elsewhere. They were understated and simply normal, and that is one of the biggest compliments an actor can earn.
The actors handled their characters’ vulnerabilities beautifully. I loved Lee Simmonds’ phone conversation and his speech about acting stereotypes. Avery is not an easy character to crack, and he initially came across as very strange. But the beauty of Simmonds’ acting was in the way he gradually opened up – to the extent that I came to really understand and care for this obsessive, depressed and socially awkward young man. Antonia Clarke’s character had less telling speeches. But she was a champion of subtext. Her eyes said more than any of the speech needed to. And one of the play’s most memorable parts for me was when she unexpectedly said ‘sometimes I think there is something wrong with me. Like seriously wrong with me’. Peter Madden made me cry with his big reveal. And in general, he had a consistency of characterisation and a quiet, understated confidence on stage, which provided a real driving force in the production.
Apart from this, Úna O’Sullivan’s film clips were fun, although they were quite hard to look at for their full length without hurting your back. Sholto Gillie had a beautiful moment of acting at the end, and in general injected two very small roles with a lot of quiet character. Lewis Hunt’s set design was stunning. I loved the attention to detail in the snacks, the popcorn, the old cinema seats, and the layout also made incredibly versatile staging for the actors. The creativity with which the cast moved around the seats helped bring out interesting tension and different dynamics between the characters. The set actually proved to be an important part for certain plot points in the story too, and the costumes were also nicely suited.
Ironically, I don’t think I could ever say everything I want to say about this play. There is so much that I could pick apart and praise. But the bottom line is that it is a very special piece of theatre. The Flick is a subtle and heartfelt production, and it demonstrates just how important minimalism can be. Less is more.