Martlets, a new comedy from writer and director Simone Norowzian proved to be an entertaining and immersive experience, during which, as promised, I was plied with drink and felt truly involved in the action. A hilarious play, it felt a little like an Oxford panto and yet warmed my heart all the same. Not that I have anything against Oxford pantos, but if I really did want to revisit all that makes Oxford so unique, I’d read a freshers guide.
The plot was brief and fairly confusing; the characters were cliches; the head of the person in front of me had somehow increased in size since she had sat down and I was convinced that Richard (William Foxton) would eventually drop the jar of cherries all over the carpet. Yet I liked it. I’d put this down to the relatability, lightness of humour, stage setup and immersive element. Perhaps even a bit to my dated obsession with Skins – as the character of Cassie (Imogen Strachan) reminded me of her namesake, a delight but also delighted to just be there. She spoke a confused mix of Spanish and French to Archie (Daniel Gordon), who despite the sheer strength of his jawline and the talent evidenced by his brief piano interlude, was a woefully inadequate languages student – no surprises there.
The plot follows stories associated with women being admitted into Worcester for the first time, causing a flurry amongst the men already residing there. The space was utilised most interestingly and effectively, the stairs to the section above really helped to break up the scenes and punctuate the action. Props lay scattered around the seating and the characters questioned, gestured at and even engaged with us. Martlets was truly immersive in every sense of the word. Even the jokes were relatable, with notable shout-outs to the ‘waccy baccy’ and Olivia’s (Lily Lefkow-Green) compulsive colour coordination, I truly felt involved.
I must confess that Araminta (Sian Lawrence) and Jude’s (Carlo QC) romance reminded me of every first year couple who you want to warn of the impending and messy reality of breakups, though the latter’s transformation to a Sex Pistol’s fan was accompanied by a great smize and pout. I have mixed feelings about the transformation of Geraldine to Gerald. On one hand, Simone Norowzian’s fake moustache undid itself at a particularly fine moment early in the play and was of great comedic value, and her blossoming romance with Olivia was heartwarming but, on the other hand, the lack of reaction when she admits that she is a girl passing off as a male member of the college, left me feeling unsatisfied.
Though the writing could have done with a bit more polish and I shouldn’t have taken Jude’s crisis over whether or not to become a lawyer as a reflection of my own, watching Martlets was an evening well spent.