Horses, Brains and Apples at Midnight

Noelle Spillmann reviews Midnight At The Boiler House, a collection of original theatre pieces created by RHUL's very own Drama students.

Having had mixed experiences with Midnight At The Boilerhouse in the past, I found myself feeling a cocktail of excitement and dread attending this term’s Student Workshop’s Original Theatre Night. Should you have never attended a MATB – as it is so lovingly called – it is in essence a night of original, student written theatre performed in the Boilerhouse theatre by students for students. Pieces range between five to ten minutes and cover a variety of genres – from conventional comedy to thought provoking physical theatre pieces. That being said, from my own experience there tends to be a slight focus on theatre of a certain nature every MATB. The last one I attended (which was not last term’s I must confess) heavily leaned towards physical theatre whilst this MATB seemed more inclined towards comedic pieces.

The show started off with part one of Rob Wilson and Jack Davies’ Emily Wilding Davison Getting Hit By A Horse – a triptych covering themes with high contemporary relevance such as toxic masculinity and whether men can discuss feminist issues.  Aside from being incredibly funny (albeit a little confusing) at times, the piece was thought provoking making strategic use of the controversial Gillette advertisement and physicality to highlight the addressed issues and evoke emotion in addition to making a masterful transition from comedy to emotionally striking.

Following this was P.M by Emily Wilkinson. What lay behind the intriguing title was a wonderful slice-of-life piece that captured the essence of what it is to be a big sister. Not only did the piece make me smile but also warmed my heart, despite being a little sister myself. P.M was followed by Eight-Forty-Three a comedic piece with great gags about a work car share written and performed by Ruby Harrison and Jack Davies. The more comedic momentum of MATB was tactically disrupted by The Death of Olivia Hazel – a more serious piece with more subtly comedic elements that channelled crime show interrogation scenes. Despite having perhaps wished for more tension in this one, I enjoyed the staging and found it to be a wonderfully different way to examine of university culture.

Following The Death of Olivia Hazel was Brain Food by Lucy Sarasin and Sophie Welbourne. Although I really loved the concept of Brain Food and it accurately captured human vulnerabilities in a very real manner I felt the piece could be further developed. The notion of overthinking and overanalysing was also thematised by the piece following Brain Food, aptly named This Is What Overthinking Looks Like by Martha Lochhead featured the continuous replaying of a rekindling between two broken up lovers to emulate the racing thoughts many of us experience when contemplating potential scenarios. A truly great piece that hit deep because of its relatability. Next was THANTAPHOBIA by Max Dobson which shone by being surprisingly funny despite being centred around existential angst. Albeit being mildly disturbing I found the piece magnificent and can safely say I will never look at apples the same way again.

Starting off the final third of MATB was Strangers Bed by Joshua Thomas which provided an interesting perspective on one night stands and featured a great lift. After Strangers Bed the lights went out marking the start of Two Notes by Squiddy Latham – an auditory experience featuring spots of torchlight dotted around the space with the singers. Two Notes was a wonderfully magical piece that was reminiscent of beacons communicating with each other and I enjoyed every single second of. Closing off was an excerpt from the Student Workshops original term performance Eternal Youth which was highly entertaining and made me eager to see the full-term time show!

Overall, this round of Midnight At The Boilerhouse had me entirely convinced. Well done to all the performers and all the creators I can’t wait to see what they all do next.