Ambergate Reservoir is unlike anything I have seen at The Nottingham New Theatre. The production fuses elements of comedy and suspenseful drama to create a show that showcases director Emma White’s wonderful script-writing and Rachel Angeli’s completely engrossing acting.
Christine (Rachel Angeli), a middle-aged mother separated from her husband, talks the audience through a mixture of anecdotes about her past, from school discos to walks with her Nan, with Angeli completely capturing this sense of nostalgia. Performed in the round, and with the intimate space made to look like Christine’s living room, there is no room for audience members to hide from Angeli’s gaze.
“There is no room for audience members to hide from Angeli’s gaze”
From the moment the audience walked in they were ushered to their seats by Christine, which were an assortment of odd chairs, armchairs and sofas. Children’s toys were scattered over a large Persian rug stained with green paint, and the room was dimly lit with lamps, creating a sense of intimacy. A small table stood to the side with an interesting selection of sandwich ingredients. From the beginning, there was a real sense that the audience were walking into someone’s home, yet this intrusion of privacy was more than welcome. The play makes the most of destroying all concepts of the fourth wall. Angeli directly addresses the audience throughout the production, from offering them snacks and unusual tea-like concoctions, to squeezing herself between audience members. The actress relishes in interacting with the audience throughout the performance, and makes sure there is no time to relax or lose focus. Angeli’s emotions flicker seamlessly from casual and joking, to thoughtful and sincere, to frustrated and impassioned. She is a pleasure to watch.
“The play makes the most of destroying all concepts of the fourth wall”
The script is incredibly strong; different anecdotes fit together and flow whilst taking full advantage of long pauses, perfectly timed by Angeli, that make the audience feel as though they are seeing a woman on the brink of a break down. Christine as a character is erratic and unpredictable, which keeps the audience on their toes and intrigued as to what she will do and say next. All of Christine’s stories and thoughts are made to seem spontaneous by Angeli, and their surface meaning is somewhat irrelevant; you can hear and see her emotion, from bitter resentment to sexual frustration, bubbling away beneath the cracks in Christine’s surface. These emotions occasionally slip through as she aggressively makes a sandwich comprising of ingredients such as ham, olives, marshmallows, cheese crisps and whipped cream. Parts of the script are hilarious while others are hard-hitting, but always utterly enjoyable to listen to.
Overall, Ambergate Reservoir is student theatre at its best; White’s script and Angeli’s acting are a pleasure to experience. The play weaves between touching moments of sincerity and playful comic scenes that keep the audience on the edge of their seats in the best possible way.
‘Ambergate Reservoir’ is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Monday 14th March 2016, for more information and to book tickets, see here.