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Orchestra | Dorfman Theatre (Connections Festival)

Orchestra, which is written by Charlie Joseph, was performed by the Porthcawl Comprehensive School as part of the National Theatre Connections Festival. An annual festival aimed at schools across England, to encourage and empower young artists to develop and produce a play at the National Theatre. Directed by fellow student Wil Morgan, Orchestra is a powerful piece. 

Orchestra features an entire student orchestra in rehearsals on the final week before they open their show. With tensions running high, frustration and stress take over the orchestra and result in dire consequences. The orchestra also highlights classism, elitism, self-harm, suicide attempt, drug usage, sexism amongst many other themes. 

The entire 21 piece cast are present on stage at all times, sat in their designated seats in an Orchestra, with each section claiming a small part of the stage. The entire ensemble form this show, with unseen conductor and teacher Angela, guiding them. Whilst this is a fine idea on paper, it becomes quite confusing on stage, especially as the ensemble are all dressed alike and don't have their instruments with them, leading to the audience being confused who everyone is. An exception is the New Girl (3rd Trombone), and Alyssa (1st Trombone), who have an individual and linear narrative. 

Alyssa becomes the emotional anchor and heart of the show, when the internal and external pressure upon her shoulders to be perfect mounts and she spirals. In a painful scene of epiphany, the truly toxic nature of creating art is revealed, which is neatly undercut by individual monologues by other orchestra members of what making music means to them. Alyssa is beautifully performed, and has a staggeringly powerful monologue about how bad being good is, and it's the show's most striking moment. Alone for the first time in the show, Alyssa wins the audience over in a breathtakingly portrayed confessional monologue.

The entire cast work well together to create a fascinating ensemble show, with a clear understanding of the world of student orchestra. The show begins by introducing every member, and proceeds to discuss the stereotypes associated with each section. Although helpful and amusing, it does result in a lot of information being thrown at the audience, with no character perspective or overall arc to help retain attention. Yet the world of student orchestra thrives, bubbling as an undertone throughout the piece. 

The show has moments of light hearted humour, with the interactions between young adults and teenagers. Particularly fun is a blossoming new romance between two of the orchestra members that results in laugh out loud moments. 

Orchestra is a strong play, and with a little fine tuning, would be a commendable production.

Connections Festival runs at the National Theatre until Saturday 29th June. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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