Review: Videotape (Underdog)
Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Is it right to write a review for this show? An original play, set in our humble Aberdeen, and hidden in a wee bar-with-stage called “Underdog” that I didn’t even know existed until I heard about the show? Nah, it’s too good. No-one can know. This is one I have been really looking forward to, as its promise of a thriller, an unconventional love story, and a multi-media performance is like theatrical gold as far as I’m concerned. However, given the performance was only an hour, would it be able to entertain without feeling cramped or rushed? And would it be able to avoid the trap of local settings feeling needy or unnecessary?
The play follows a couple as one of them starts to act strangely, and to say any more would be to say too much. The story jumps between times and despite the simple plot you are always intrigued as to what is happening, what will happen next, and why. The sharp writing made it exciting to watch, keeping you curious but never makes you work to keep track of what was happening. That said, the ending is totally unpredictable and for a good time after the performance had finished I found myself thinking about it over and over again, thinking back to all the clues in the first half.
The script itself was funny, charming and created characters that felt real and relatable. The locality of the setting was well played, with Aberdonian dialect and film showing locations around Aberdeen relevant to each part of the story, shot nostalgically like home videotapes. Even when you’re engulfed in the drama on stage, there are nice moments when a new shot takes the screen and you figure out where it is. It all contributes to a sense that this play, whilst tied to Aberdeen, is totally timeless. The relationship dynamics, the emotions, and the core elements of the story are all quite traditional in their narrative. It doesn’t feel the need to connect itself to anything recent or critical, which in a world where all theatre seems to strive to be reflective is a much appreciated change. It feels small, and in making it feel small you can’t help but connect to the characters.
Mark Wood and Hannah Donaldson put in wonderful performances. Donaldson’s performance especially stood out as she gave no polish to her character, no savviness, no fictional gloss but rather presenting a flawed character who you could relate to. Between her, Wood, and director Cameron Mowat, the performance comes off as a one-person show with a two-person cast, to its great credit. It takes advantage of Underdog’s small stage and uses the space better than most productions use stages the size of boats. Add in the local film footage and you could quite easily believe in the world that was being created on stage using only a sofa and a footstool (emphasised by the couple’s “imaginary holidays”). The direction is dynamic, the timing is perfect and the use of directorial conventions is incredibly imaginative.
Is it right then to write a review for a show, in which one of its best features is how humble and small it is? Well, now I’ve written it I can say yes. Yes, it is. “Videotape” is the kind of production that everyone will love. It’s intriguing, it’s funny, it’s moving, and I confess there was a tear in my eye at the end of the performance. There ought to be more theatre like this. Let the secret get out. If you live in the North East, you should see this play, and tell everyone you know about it afterward. Four stars.
Whispers from the Crowd: "Beautifully performed, intriguing play, and draws you in using multi media. Five stars."