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Review: Possessions

Hannah Carley reviews Dramasoc’s latest virtual performance.

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Image Credit: Annabel Mulliner and Jacob Deakin

Dramasoc’s performance of the first act of their original musical Possessions highlights the success of the virtual barn.

Like many of York’s performance societies, DramaSoc has faced brand new challenges this term due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions have unfortunately forced the drama barn to keep its doors closed to audiences since the start of term, forcing the society to reimagine its ways of working. However, DramaSoc has been quick to adapt, moving performances at the Barn online and have even continued performances through lockdown with clever video editing. On Monday evening I went to see their work for myself and viewed the performance of an excerpt of Aidan Quigley’s original musical Possessions.

Possessions is a dark piece concerning complex issues such as eating disorders, mental health and loss. The use of sarcasm and comedy within its writing further highlights the sombre undertone of the piece through juxtaposition. However, the actors gave thoughtful and realistic performances that aided this portrayal. From watching just one part of this show I was able to fully empathize with the characters and relate to their struggles. Given the understandable lack of physical contact, the tormented relationships between characters are particularly well portrayed.

The most striking element of the piece, however, was its simplicity. A lack of staging and the small cast reflect the isolation felt by the characters, and make the use of the few props that were present even more impactful. Even as someone who listens to a lot of musical theatre I can think of few scores that are both as modest and sombre as this one has been so far. The tone allows for increased empathy with the characters and aids understanding towards the dark topics this musical discusses. Many of which take on even greater emphasis given the current challenges we face.

The team working on Possessions have also embraced this new format of performance and used it to aid their work. Pre-recording and video editing allowed for cuts, effects and imagery that would likely not be possible in a traditional theatre setting. Unfortunately, there is no way to bring the atmosphere of an audience to YouTube, and at times the performance felt more like film than theatre. Yet seeing creators embrace the situation in which we find ourselves and using it to aid their craft was definitely highlighted. It is an achievement in itself that Dramasoc have produced original drama like Possessions every week under current restrictions.

The work of all those involved in Possessions and the fantastic end result show that there is hope - not just for Dramasoc - but for all of York’s performance societies in the coming months. This piece, as well as many others, have proven the virtual barn to be a successful project. For shows like this to be made in times like these, and to still hold high production value is something that all those involved in this work should take pride in. Taking all of this aside, Possessions is a thoughtful, well-acted musical that I look forward to seeing the rest of. Even in a virtual setting, this is a piece I can highly recommend.

*The full recording of Possessions is due to be released on the production’s *Youtube channel in mid-December. More details about the show can also be found on their Facebook and Instagram. A list of other upcoming performances from Dramasoc can also be found on the society’s website.

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