Student Workshop have had their ups and down in the past few terms and, for the supposedly best qualified extra-curricular drama group at Holloway, have produced some atrocities. For every outstandingly acted Leaves of Glass and daring So This Is What It Feels Like there are dreary, uninspired efforts like A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This term, however, the group seem to be showing signs of a return to form – heralded (that is the only word appropriate) by Oliver Gordon’s interpretation of Hushabye Mountain.
A play that deals with the always-risky subject of AIDS, Jonathan Harvey’s text is moving, realistic and impossibly hard to stage. With locations that range from a nightclub to the cloudy landscape of heaven, a student budget might not have been good enough. Gordon and his team proved otherwise. The production is eloquent in every sense, from perfectly judged performances to a simple but well used set design. With only minimal lighting and props the dreamy atmosphere is established from the start, immersing you in the potentially confusing storyline and guiding you forward until the tearful finale.
The acting was consistently top quality. Ben Hodson and Sophie Foulds, Holloway acting veterans, were up to their usual standards and flying high. Newcomers Ashleigh Baker and Ross Virgo also impressed – definitely two to watch. Top of the pile though were Louis Hall and James Potter as brothers Lee and Connor. Neither are strangers to the Holloway stage, but both have been in roles too minor or too unsuited to their talents to really shine before now; under Gordon’s direction they hit their stride, both giving heartbreaking performances that failed to leave a single dry eye in the house.
If criticism had to be made, it would be in the tiniest of details – the sound effects seemed to cut out suddenly several times and sometimes the pace lagged slightly; in general though it was a rare treat and enjoyable from start to finish. After such a bravura effort from all involved it’ll be a shame to see nothing from Student Workshop next term – let’s hope, though, that in the autumn term we’ll be treated to something as wonderful as this once more.