They say you should write about what you know and love; which leaves one to ponder if Teraxacum Theatre’s writing duo of Nanou Blair Gould & Henry Asplin are actors dreaming of being spies, or spies hiding in plain sight with a guise of being actors. It’s the latter option which forms the premise of Rudimentary; an actor torn from his beloved stage school to become a top spy. Twenty years later he is still resentful, but remains in the service, training new recruits under the smokescreen of an acting school. It is a wonderfully mad premise for a play and one that has so much to offer, based on this initial outing at Drayton Arms Theatre.
This venue is the perfect location for trying out new and zany ideas. A trip here can be very hit and miss, but that is exactly why it can be such fun to visit, as you never quite know what to expect. And in Rudimentary we get both the hit and the miss over the course of a hectic hour of theatre. It just about delivers enough to suggest there is an amusing and unique show to be had here, albeit one that will need some heavy rewrites.
Quintin Dalrymple (Michael Tuffnell) is the frustrated actor turned spy, turned teacher. We meet him as he works with his two remaining proteges, Duncan and Juliet (played by the show’s two writers). This pair clearly have their own history, although by the time we meet them it is all in the past, much to Duncan’s disappointment. Mixed in with this unrequited love, the pair are chasing down Quintin’s arch enemy, Harry Vanderstaat. Oh, and along the way there is a further love interest thrown in, in the form of Agnes (Grace Lyons).
The show has moments that are impossible not to enjoy, usually for their utter stupidity. Nanou Blair Gould’s physical performance is a joy to witness and a tribute to Susanna Dye’s movement direction: she somehow manages to convince you that the metal frame (the only scenery on stage throughout) is everything from a fourth floor window to the ceiling of the hotel room belonging to her target. In fact, Gould is the real star throughout, radiating the menacing impression that she would happily break your neck with only the slightest reason to do so.
Scriptwise, again there is promise. The background provided by the pre-show handout is genuinely amusing, although there is a risk that if you don’t read it you may find the story even more confusing than it already is. But there is no doubting that there are enough moments of joy to justify this show being further developed. A script that is intentionally corny beyond belief has some delightful moments. The interplay between Juliet and Agnes certainly offers many of the best lines: when Agnes questions why she left via a fourth floor window Juliet’s simple explanation that she ‘does parkour’ is a work of art.
Rudimentary is very much a work in progress and should be viewed as such. But then that is why it’s playing at Drayton Arms Theatre and not a more conventional venue where expectations are higher. I sincerely look forward to seeing where Teraxacum Theatre take it next.
Written by: Nanou Blair Gould & Henry Asplin
Produced by: Teraxacum Theatre
Movement Direction by: Susanna Dye
Playing until: This show has completed its current run