Review: Curating (Drayton Arms)

A curious play by Helen Cunningham with four actors set in a room somewhere in the afterlife is what we are offered with Curating, as 27-year old Freya finds herself with a bad head and a mountain of paperwork.

A strong and amusing opening has Freya (Cunningham) disbelievingly sparring with her personal curator (Gerard Miller), an officious and bespectacled rule-bound man proud of his time management.

As time progresses, taxidermist John (Joshua Samuels) is introduced, from a different century and family focus, but also 27 and felled by consumption. His view on celebrating beauty after death is intriguing.

Connecting despite being worlds and times apart, the two chat and develop a friendship of sorts. The big things and the small are discussed, religion is floated as an abstract and a certainty.

At just fifty minutes, this play suffers a little from an unnecessary final scene in a different location, and seems to hold views about taking your own life which some audience members may find difficult.

Pre-set for Curating

With four characters (one, a second female curator (Andrea Johannes) feels superfluous), the burden of the acting time and lines falls on Cunningham, and her nervous antagonism feels believable.

Hints at a benelovent “her upstairs” are tantalising but left undeveloped. White and red lights (lighting/sound by Stephen Nieman) hint at the traditional exits for those who have “crossed over”, the pearly gates or the pits of hell.

In the room in which Freya is offered tea and hiscuits we have no real feel of purgatory or processing room – perhaps some sound cues could assist with this: a low ticking of a clock, lift mechsnics, or doors slamming shut.

There is a significant amount of sparkle within Curating, and the initial idea isn’t one I have come across before. I found myself just a little disappointed by the ending, as if the play lost the courage of its convictions to display the unknown.

This play has potential and some interesting ideas, and some positive directing choices from Nikoletta Soumelidis in her debut, but it doesn’t feel quite there yet.

Curating ran at the Drayton Arms Theatre on 11-12 Jun.