Last night, I had the fortune of seeing one of the most unusual, most engaging, and most emotional plays I have ever seen. The 2nd Year students on the BA (Hons) Acting course invited Pluto along to watch their performance of Balm in Gilead, and I was not disappointed.
Set in a late night diner in New York City, Balm in Gilead is a semi-ensemble based play, with two larger roles but a wide ensemble of characters who all bring something unique and special to the piece.
It opens with a very strange air guitar-drums-lip sync performance, which unsettled me as a reviewer as it was definitely not what I expected. It quickly transitioned into the grotty realism you’d expect from a piece in such a setting. The two large roles, Joe, a small time drug dealer, and Darlene, a naïve newcomer to NYC were well performed, with it definitely feeling like I was watching real people and not actors. The entire cast all added something special to such a hectic piece, where every member of the cast spoke over one another at some point, and all vied for my attention in a compelling manner.
A special notice of performance goes to Callum Taylor, whose role of Franny, a transvestite prostitute, echoed the experiences that similar people in reality would have felt in a tactful, but at the same time very witty manner. Additionally, the performance of Ann by Rachel Howard, who often spoke directly to the audience, provided a fantastic frame of the play similar to that of Linzi Hateley in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
This was a fantastic piece, and I feel privileged that I was given the opportunity to go – if you are going to see one play this year, make it this one.
Balm in Gilead is running until the 13th May. For tickets, go to https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/adpevents.