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Feature: Kaleidoscope, Guildhall School of Music and Drama

The Guildhall School of Music & Drama, based in the Barbican, boasts famous alumni including Orlando Bloom, Ewan McGregor, Daniel Craig, and Lily James. In the hopes of spotting the next big thing, I went to Silk Street Theatre to watch a few performances by final-year students. Each actor has created a short new piece, demonstrating a variety of talents in different formats including film, audio, and stage shows. 

Marianna Scott opens the evening with her striking monologue WorldOptimizer, in which she gives dating advice from the perspective of Caroline Ellison. If you missed the story, crypto currency exchange FTX collapsed in November 2022 amid tumbling crypto prices and allegations of fraud. Ellison was the CEO of a related crypto trading firm, as well as being the on-off girlfriend of FTX CEO Sam Bankman‑Fried. Ellison pleaded guilty to several counts of fraud and was the star witness in the case against Bankman‑Fried. During the case, journalists combed through her Tumblr account (username “worldoptimization”) and uncovered controversial views on cryptocurrency, drug use, polyamory, and racism.

Speaking rapidly and fluently, Scott flips through a dizzying array of memes, references and amusingly bizarre declarations. She advises the audience on “how to trap the chadlord of your dreams” and warns about red flags that indicate low testosterone levels. It’s excellent satire: Scott is both commanding and ridiculous in equal measure, and unbelievably funny. Before long, she turns vulnerable, deftly and compassionately weaving Caroline’s story together with her own personal life. Suffice it to say that I had a quick cry.

The only short film of the evening is Walter, Walter, Lead me to the Altar,a charming and surreal fictional documentary created by Sophie Cox. It tells the story of the town of Goole in Yorkshire, where residents have been encased within an enormous dome for ambiguous reasons. The film is extremely well-produced, with excellent camera work and clever cuts. Cox is consistently funny, playing a massive range of characters with exaggerated accents and precise comic timing. 

The other highlight is the final piece, Sugar, by Esther O’Casey, a monologue which takes place in the messy dressing-room of a strip club. O’Casey shines as Chloe, a hard-drinking, almost-naked girl who loves Lana Del Rey, drinks all the time, and regularly fools clients into believing she’s a virgin. “He’s taking me to Ascot next week,” she brags to an unseen friend, after recording a voice note to a client in a false, saccharine ‘sexy baby’ voice. 

O’Casey has electric charisma, sharp humour, and a particular talent as a writer, which I can only describe as ‘negative capability’. Keats uses this phrase to describe ​​a writer’s ability to accept “uncertainties, mysteries, doubts”. O’Casey gives us nothing more than a brief flash into a certain sort of life, and is content to leave it there. There is no prescribed moral, and no promise that Chloe will claw her way to something better.

Kaleidoscope is a platform for young actors to display their prowess, and a thought-provoking evening. If these performances were anything to go by, it’s worth catching the rest of the Guildhall final shows as well. I’m excited to see what they all do next.

For more information, and to buy tickets to the next round of performances on 20 and 21 June, visit the Barbican website.

About Rachel Edwards

Rachel became obsessed with Shakespeare as a teenager, after unexpectedly spending two hours in a waiting room with only a copy of Hamlet for company. She's now a regular at the Globe, and loves seeing shows in unusual places. Outside of the theatre, she's enthusiastic about Scottish dancing, beautiful buildings, and economic growth.