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Review: A Pupil, at Park Theatre

Stunning musical performances in play that portrays an intense relationship between a teacher and a student

08 November, 2018 — By ERIN COBBY

Melanie Marshall and Flora Spencer-Longhurst in A Pupil. Photo: Meurig Marshall

A PLAY equally comic as it is dark, A Pupil is the story of fallen musical genius Ye (Lucy Sheen), who, after an accident, has abandoned her gift. This is until, an old colleague pushes Simona (Flora Spencer-Longhurst), the talented daughter of a Russian billionaire, into her path.

The play blends the distinction between theatre and concert as music perforates the piece. Used to allow a transition or symbolise the passing of time, music remains central to the narrative.

The pieces performed by Spencer-Longhurst are stunning, allowing the audience to forgive her over-stereotyped Russian accent. So are the songs performed by Mary (Melanie Marshall), which add depth to her sometimes over-simplified character. It is the actors’ musical performances, on top of their moving naturalistic acting, that make it hard to imagine any other actors playing these roles.

This adds a sense of vitality and increases the drama of the performance.

Jessica Staton’s set deserves special mention, acting as a visualisation of the disorder in Ye’s mind. Created in the round, we watch the action imprisoned by a web of strings that hang from ceiling to floor. Haunting broken violins join the strings, hanging like suspended limbs. Music litters the floor, discarded among bottles of whisky and paracetamol.

Reminiscent of the 2014 film Whiplash, A Pupil is a dynamic world premiere that portrays the intense relationship between teacher and student and asks: “Can greatness be taught?”

Until November 24
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