- About the Author
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On Wednesday 16th October we went to a performance of the play “Ciphers” by Dawn King at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter.
The blurb on the Northcott website described the play thus:
“A woman is found dead. Her sister sets out to find out what happened, and stumbles into a world of secrets and subterfuge that makes her question who Justine really was. How well can you ever know someone who lies for a living?”
The set was interesting. A desk surrounded by screens that looked like computer screens, that rolled backwards and forwards to demarcate scenes and passages of time.
The play opened with a job interview between two of the main protagonists. Both actresses were so quietly spoken that we had to strain to hear the words.
The scene switched swiftly with one of the screens rolling past us and suddenly we were in Russia, complete with Russian dialogue and surtitles on the screen on the right. This seemed somewhat pretentious. Why go to all the trouble of having to get your actors to speak Russian when your audience will happily accept that Russian is being spoken by the simple vehicle of an assumed Russian accent. In addition the surtitles on the right hand screen were invisible to the audience on the left of the theatre, though it is possible the screen on the left might have been broken.
In the following scene the actress playing one of the characters now assumed a different role. Since she was dressed identically it took us a good few minutes to realise that she was no longer Justine but now Kerry. We do hate this modern habit of having the same actors playing different roles. It is extremely confusing, especially if the characters are similar and wearing the same costumes. It only needed two more actors to avoid all this confusion.
The acting overall was good, despite the two actresses being so quietly spoken, but the dramatic pauses were way overdone. I think it is easy to forget that facial expressions, which are clearly visible on television, are not so easy to read at a distance and the lengthy pauses, which might have been acceptable if we could have seen their expressions, gave the impression instead that they had forgotten their lines.
In the clever use of the set, the sliding backwards and forwards of the screens, the director didn’t take into account that some scenes were now invisible to half the theatre.
The play itself was way too complicated, darting backwards and forwards in time, made worse by the doubling up of actors, and the ending was bewildering, although it did give us a lot to talk about in the car on the away home.
So whilst we enjoyed our evening in the company of family, in the Northcott Theatre, the play itself I would have to rate as a disappointment.
Bethany Askew is the author of seven novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed, Three Extraordinary Years and The Two Saras.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Two more women’s fiction books have been accepted for publication in 2020 and 2021 respectively and she is currently working on a new novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.