Drunken Drama is a Digby Diner Debauchery… and it’s the best thing on campus!
Here’s a concept: get three educated students to write parodies of classic pop-culture, have a group of whoever shows up rehearse said parody for a month, get them all trollied, plastered, wasted, and throw a big performance! What could go wrong?
Last term I had the honour of starring in two Drunken Dramas for SSOAP society (to which I have yet to pay a member’s fee) where I played within an hour both John Watson and Maggie Simpson. I went from top hats to dummies, my appalling attempt at an English accent to literal sucking noises, and at one point had several drunk committee members rubbing me yellow. How often in life do you get a chance to experience something that outrageously stupid? For any Roehampton students, I recommend auditioning for Drunken Drama, but for those of you who still haven’t repressed your shame far enough, you must at least go and see!
Each term, the committee run a night of debauchery in the Digby Diner, so with one more to go you still have a chance to witness this ungodly, yet somehow divine, event. Not tempted yet? Well, strap in and read on, because here’s what you missed this time.
I played the “please-let-me-in-for-free-I’m-doing-a-review” card and it surprisingly worked. Sorry, Jack Grey! Then my friends and I settled down in the second row, mugs of wine in hand, and prepared ourselves mentally.
The first feature can be a tricky slot; there is a nervousness in the air, the audience is still getting seated, everyone’s a bit too sober… You, as a director, are essentially charged with setting the mood for the whole night. Our first debauchery was Ryan Bickerton’s Gavin and Stacey. Bravo, immediately, for having the cahones to take on Gavin and Stacey as your original subject material; starting with a franchise that’s intention is comedy is a weighty task, you have to measure up by being as, or more, funny. Also, the characters or not immediately recognisable: how do you distinguish Mick Shipman if you don’t have the face of Larry Lamb? This was a tall order, and for the most part Ryan Bickerton managed to respond- often times with a yell of “Corona!”
Choosing Season Two: Episode One was a fantastic choice, my only criticism is it relies on a foreknowledge of the show and my friend, unindoctrinated to the Church of Ness, was left confused the entire production. Otherwise, it worked well, a good array of all main characters interacting as a group rather than separating them to separate plots. The stage direction deserves recognition, it was well structured, and your eyes would always be drawn to the right place- aside from the occasional small slip when scenes accidentally overlapped. The decision to keep the action in the restaurant, instead of moving onto the golf range as with the show, was smart, with a drinking competition for the show’s finale.
Jessica Lord’s Nessa and Ignas Smitrius’s Smithy, as the two most iconic characters, were everything they needed to be, with Nessa’s accent staying strong (and when it didn’t, it was hilarious) and her outfit outrageous, and props to our Smithy for toeing that line of painfully heterosexual yet homoerotic (as always, Ignas). The biggest laugh for me is still a tossup: either the moments of Smithy walking like a Sim on spot when storming off, or Nessa’s “Italian sounding lines, Italian sounding lines.”
A note that thank my Catholic God Rosamund Carpenter and Conor McGibney, respectively Dawn and Pete, are a real-life couple- I’ll have to rate this production a PG-12 after that display of cleavage comforting! You can tell the two are confident comedy actors, time and time again they bring something new to stage, and, in my eyes, can do no wrong. Biased who?
Where Gavin and Stacey fell short for me was the script, I hate to say. Very little was changed from the actual show, save perhaps the continuous Corona Virus jokes, that stood precariously on the Offence-O-Meter but I can admit were funny if wearing thin by the end. The start of the production suffered the most, with many lines lifted from the original falling flat. I don’t put the fault on director/writer Ryan Bickerton, as I said earlier it is tricky adaption material.
The middle feature is a blessing of a spot: the audience is tipsy, but not drunk, everyone is settled, the heckling is still respectful. For our second debauchery, we were treated to ASSVENGERS (directed and written by Cameron Ranford). How has this not been done already? An iconic set of characters, easily identifiable costumes, the sheer amount of content to work with- it is perfect for a Drunken Drama treatment!
The start was a little slow and confusing, but when the production arrived, it did so with a bang!
(I will note that one friend with me remained confused the entire time as they had never seen Avengers.)
The cast was a perfect fit, an all-star ensemble truly, I started writing a list of shout-outs to particular actors but my word! It never ended! Sam Laughton’s Roeki was on-the-nose; Rosamund Carpenter’s dainty “Hulk smaaaash!” never failed to get a laugh; Conor McGibney’s air traffic control Iron Man was hilarious; how could anyone but Ignas Smitrius play Thor; Henry Robertson delivered a full musical number that flexed considerable talent; Britt Haefeli and Ryan Bickerton’s Black Widow and Captain America, respectively, felt true to the films; and Remy Theobald’s Danos was a delightful surprise. All managed to steal the spotlight while also sharing the stage, the perfect ensemble. The staging was clear, with good use of the room, and always a captivating stage. The costumes and props also deserve a shout-out, everyone was instantly identifiable and hilarious to look at from the out. Thor’s hammer as his penis jokes were obvious, but funny. Specific shoutout to Ros’s dedication- before the performance I heard her Cameron, “Oh don’t worry, I have enough green.”
Now here’s my issue: where’s the line in parody that hits plagiarism? While most of the script seemed new and genuine, my friends and I couldn’t help but notice we recognised some of the scenes. Hawkeye’s parody solo to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” was from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; the skit of Hawkeye having so few arrows was Verbatim a Saturday Night Live sketch. These were the two we caught, however now I can’t help but wondering if other parts of the script were borrowed. We expect the occasional meme to be lifted from Tumblr or tweet quoted, but not full scenes of sketches. It puts a sour note on an otherwise well done and structured parody.
From an ASSVENGERS sequel, which I do hope we will be entertained to in this term or next year, I hope that Cameron Ranford can keep up the stamina of his first- as this was genuinely one of the best (and most coherent) Drunken Dramas I’ve seen- while also staying away from plagiarism and bringing in some of the diversity that was installed into the franchise post-Avengers Assemble.
The third drunken drama debauchery is always going to be the most difficult; your audience is drunk, your actors are likely also drunk, and you yourself? Probably drunk. I have seen a rowdy audience be the downfall of many a sound performance in the past, and thankfully the RoeBEE Movie fared remarkably well against the crowds. Our captain was Farrah Alice Black, seasoned veteran of the Drunken Drama.
Maybe I was drunk, but what happened? I have seen the Bee Movie, but after watching this drunken drama I cast that into suspicion. This is not entirely a criticism, because for all that I was confused by the RoeBEE Movie, I was ridiculously entertained. The only thing I would change about the entire production is slowing the pace, in an effort to seem more bee-like I feel a lot of the lines were rushed without giving the scene rooms to breathe. Also, I knew Annabel Black (who has ever was giving her all and it shows!) was supposed to be Jacqueline Wilson, however most people around me did not.
Everyone in the production came to perform! There was 100% effort and energy from everyone involved, with stellar work done by our two leads Amanda TenWolde and Katherine Ivankovic, as Barry B. Benson and Vanessa respectively. I’m still quite stunned at the accuracy of Vanessa, from character to costume. All the costumes were hilarious- I’m sure I should’ve taken this opportunity to make a bee pun alas the production used them all up! The staging worked quite incredibly, specifically the tennis and airplane scenes where the coordination was surprisingly spot-on for late in the night. Also, the RoeBEE movie made the effort of adding in the soundtrack, which enhanced the experience and just added that little extra something to the atmosphere. Production Value whom??
I am just grateful these events aren’t competitions, because I would be at a loss at ranking the productions, instead I will just hand out some ROE-scars. (Let me know if that pun really doesn’t work.)
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE
All Welsh Accents from Gavin and Stacey.
Rosamund Carpenter’s Hulk just cannot be beat. Sorry ‘bout it.
It’s a tie, what else? ASSVENGERS and ROEBEE Movie came to play on the costume, both deserve acclaim for their effort.
BEST SCREENPLAY ALTERATION
Gwen. Having a mop play Gwen gave the actors more to work with, it was a good character commentary, and it was just fucking funny.
Jessica Lord’s “And now I’m Scottish!”
Literally all of you for willing to subject yourself to this naughty, naughty, night!
As ever, I had a fantastic night thanks to the good people at SSOAP. For the price of £3, you can, too! The next show date is TBD, given the current climate! I advise everyone not to miss out, god-willing Roehampton, and all of us, are still standing in the next few months.