A review of Rumours : A comedy of irrepressible suppression | Sunday Observer

A review of Rumours : A comedy of irrepressible suppression

When the mouth is doing the talking and the face is making multiple expressions what exactly are the hands supposed to do and ensure its function is done properly and not beyond necessity?
When the mouth is doing the talking and the face is making multiple expressions what exactly are the hands supposed to do and ensure its function is done properly and not beyond necessity?

The first time I saw Elizabeth Moir School showcase its thespian talents on the boards at the Wendt was in 1996 when they staged a production of the much loved musical Annie. I can honestly still recall how captivatingly they sang the finale–‘Tomorrow’. And now, a little over twenty years later, on March 29, I saw Elizabeth Moir School present a performance, which as a school play, showed a commendable calibre of student talent.


When a character is being performed on stage the hands could give away much about the player’s degree of ‘being in character’

With a talented young ensemble bringing to life an evening of comedic chaos set in the residence of the Deputy Mayor of New York City, Elizabeth Moir School presented Rumours, a play written by American playwright Neil Simon, and directed by Anushka Senanayake.

Set in a framework of a realist set design the players delivered dialogue through clip-on microphones. Dialogue was thus amplified to ensure audibility to every quarter of the auditorium. However, it is my opinion that the mettle of a thespian’s pulse to deliver dialogue from the stage gets best tested without the use of electronic amplification of the voice.

But of course, the use of microphones too has its advantages I will admit, although such designs may hinder the audience’s feeling of encountering a performance that could otherwise aspire to create on the boards a much more realistic ‘sounding’ scene.

Visual dimension

Rumours was a production with admirable stagecraft depicting the living room of a two storey house that practically functioned well for the purpose of the performance. The aspects of makeup and costume too were commendable, and thus the physical design that delivered the visual dimension of the work must be applauded. The cast consisted of Akash Gnanam as Ken Gorman, Shakira Paulas as Chris Gorman, Anan Weerasinghe as Leonard Ganz, Ishini Gammanpila as Claire Ganz, Areeb Thassim as Ernie Cusack, Kanza Dilshard as Cookie Cusack, Amjad Hamza as Glenn Cooper, Anjali Mathews as Cassie Cooper, and Methin Lokumannage and Nashmoon Sheena as the two police officers.

The action happens in the residence of Charley and Myra Brock (who incidentally are not characters who appear on stage) on the day of their tenth wedding anniversary.

The friends of the Brocks arrive in pairs and chaos brews in the wake of finding Myra to be missing while Charley (who is incidentally the Deputy Mayor) passed out after having shot himself in the ear, supposedly by accident.

Was it an attempted murder or an attempted suicide? Either way it’s a crime that requires covering up in the name of loyal friendship! The chain of suppression of the real state of the situation creates a comedic state of irrepressible suppression. Amjad Hamza as Glenn Cooper delivered a character of a staid, aspiring statesman and came out rather well initially, but as the narrative progressed, this approach did seem somewhat monotonous. Glenn’s re-entry to the stage at the point he is beleaguered with a bleeding nose after presumably being assaulted by his disgruntled wife, was rather underplayed and could have been better capitalised to give his character a better uplift in dramatic vein given the nature of the situation.

Verbal barrage

Hamza also fumbled lines in a few places during the performance, the first being when he talks about meeting Myra’s father at a cocktail.If my observations were correct Anan Weerasinghe as Len Ganz too made a minor fumble with lines, at the point when he says, the Spanish servants fled in an Alpha Romeo. It must be noted that the particular part of dialogue delivered by Weerasinghe, which also included bits of ‘purported Spanish’ was nevertheless an impressive long winded verbal barrage that flowed near flawlessly.

Hands aren’t always the easiest aspect to successfully manage in the scheme of a player’s bodily modulations when delivering dialogue. When a character is being performed on stage the hands could give away much about the player’s degree of ‘being in character’.

When the mouth is doing the talking and the face is making multiple expressions what exactly are the hands supposed to do and ensure its function is done properly and not beyond necessity? Hand gestures, thus, is an art that must be focused on, to complement the rest of the aspects that create the actor’s overall delivery of his or her persona as a character.

What I noticed was that both, the characters of Len Ganz and Ken Gorman were almost characterized with vigorous hand gesticulation. At times Gnanam’s hand movements seemed almost mechanized.

Calculated variance

It reflected a facet of what a player may perhaps produce as performance after a rigorous rehearsal of lines not coupled with equally controlled and planned hand gestures.

I do understand that the characters were meant to depict highly excited, and at that, ‘excitable’ persons whose anxiety was teetering towards being erratic, but I do contend that other measures could have been adopted to highlight that anxiety factor by giving the hands calculated variance in their ‘physical expression’.

Tersely grabbing physical articles within the household, for example, the banister while on the stairs, would have been a productive measure to show anxiety within the character while also giving variance to the manner in which the hands are manoeuvred for performance. However, I did notice the vigour of hand gesticulations became somewhat less pronounced in the second scene.

While all the players did a commendable job in this production, I would say the aptitude for acting was most noticeable in the performances of Shakira Paulas and Ishini Gammanpila.

On the acting front I would say overall the players delivered a performance that can be appreciated for certain.

Over the years and in the course of having written over a hundred theatre reviews, I have seen productions by theatre companies consisting of adults putting on performances that couldn’t deliver even half as much in terms of acting as the students who performed Rumours.

Therefore, Elizabeth Moir School and everyone who was involved in bringing to life the performance of Rumours must be applauded for what they achieved. 

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