Speech

Welcome to the Speech Team at URY. From URY's inception the idea was to broadcast not only music but drama, documentary, comedy and much more besides... And this is a tradition that we continue today, producing new student written plays and adapting some of the world's finest novels for the airwaves.

We produce comedy programmes such as sketch shows and live stand-up and create intriguing documentaries and features.

All in all, we continue to create great radio in one of the most creative and imaginative universities in the UK.

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For more, visit our blog at URY Speech Blog.

Review: 'Lord of the Flies'

Published on 25/10/2014. Link to original post
DramaSoc's production of Lord of the Flies is one in which they should be tremendously proud. From beginning to end, I found myself completely immersed in the play; after the first part, I did not feel like I was merely watching actors, but that I was watching the genuine events unfold.

Lord of the Flies follows the story of a group of schoolchildren, who find themselves trapped on a beach after a plane crash. Their attempts to create their own society fail dramatically, and the subsequent events make the audience question what it means to be human; what 'human nature' really entails.
 
As you may have gathered, it certainly is not a play to see if you are looking to be cheered up; indeed, the play is incredibly dark and soul-searching, but that does not stop it from being entertaining. The terror I experienced at the events before me was only heightened by the incredible work of the lighting engineers. The lights were used exceptionally to transform the small stage into the island where the story is set, with a depth and sense of distance that DramaSoc should be proud to have achieved.

I also cannot give high enough praise to the actors, whose skills upon the stage led me to truly relate to all of the characters. I was genuinely heartbroken, and genuinely appalled, at certain moments of the play, as I felt the emotions portrayed by these artists cut right into me. My only criticism - and it is a minor one - would be that, during a soliloquy given by the character of Simon, I couldn't really understand him over his sobs.

Besides that, the play was astonishing - I do not believe that I have ever seen a play that has more engrossed, appalled, and struck me to the core. Lord of the Flies is a must-see - it will take you on a rollercoaster of emotion, and may even lead you to question the very nature of your being.

By James Aston

Review: 'Journey's End'

Published on 12/10/2014. Link to original post


Based on his real experiences of the trenches, R. C. Sherriff writes Journey’s End as a gripping yet humanised glimpse into just a few days of living on the front line. When young officer Raleigh joins his childhood hero and family friend Stanhope in the trenches, three years of experience in the nightmare of warfare has entirely changed his hero who has turned to whisky to cope with the trauma. It is a moving, thought provoking piece, performed admirably by the York DramaSoc cast. 

On entry into the barn, I felt like I had taken steps back through time into a war bunker. The space had been transformed into the dark and dirty hell of the trenches, and I was impressed by the great detail in which the crew had gone into in order to create an authentic looking set. It was clear that a lot of time and thought had gone into this, and credit must be given to everyone involved in this superb recreation. The seating was set very close to the stage, which invites the audience to become part of the action, making the emotions running through the play cut deeper and feel more intense. 

The play itself was very well performed. Whilst it seems slightly lacking in plot line (which actually appears to be representative of the pace of the life in the trenches) the play makes up for this in the beautifully written script and it’s representation of each character and the wonderful relationships between them. Throughout the two hours spent in the barn, I became absorbed in the play and felt so much sympathy towards each of the characters, that some of the most intense scenes left me with a sickening lump in my throat.

All of the characters were flawlessly performed, and the development of the relationships between each of the officers had clearly been a main priority when rehearsing this play. Special mention must be given to Sam Hill who played Stanhope and Josh Welch who played Raleigh, for their outstanding and heart-breaking performance of this tragic friendship. Sam Hill flawlessly portrayed the traits of his complex character; a world-weary, bitter captain with an intense heart. Ross Cronshaw also played an excellent Osborne, successfully portraying the level headed father-figure of the group of men. 

However, amidst the grave wartime setting, comic characters like Trotter (James Dixon) and Mason (Tim Kelly) provided an ongoing sense of continuing everyday life, which made the situation feel real, a significant contrast to the intense seriousness of much of the rest of the play. Both characters were well performed, adding a light relief and a humanistic feel which R. C. Sherriff wanted to create with this play.
Unlike many wartime productions, Journey’s End is authentic and honest. We are presented not with over glorified battles and super heroes, but real men, real lives and real emotion. Edd Riley has directed an incredibly touching production which should not be missed. A fantastic start to the term, I highly recommend this performance. 

By Sinead Hammond
URY Speech Theatre Liaison

Review: 'Pantsoc Presents Cinderella!'

Published on 17/1/2014. Link to original post
By Ben Bason & George Lane


"Quite a lot of genres packed into one" -Ben Bason

"The first thing that struck me was the size of the cast...it gave a real community feel" -Ben Bason

"I was amazed at the quality of the production" -George Lane

"All the jokes were relevant and up-to-date" -Ben Bason

"Izzy Austin as Cinderella was absolutely brilliant...the quality of her singing was amazing...some magical moments from her" -Ben Bason & George lane

"As opening night there were a few technical problems with mics not working...it wasn't an issue for the dialogue but for songs they were occasionally drowned out by the band"                  -Ben Bason & George Lane

"Gamma played by Ed Jones was absolutely brilliant...one of the stand out performances"         -Ben Bason

"A good 4 stars but by Friday and Saturday performances i'm sure it will be reaching 5 stars"    -Ben Bason & George Lane 

For the full review listen to YorWorld this Sunday (19th January) from 2pm

Still unsure about whether to see the show, then check out our exclusive preview here on the URY player

Review: 'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change'

Published on 23/11/2013. Link to original post
By Emma Gibbs & David Brennan




“The set piece was fantastic…it looked really lush for what the drama barn is, which is a very small black box. They had used a lot of soft furnishings to make it very comfortable for you to be in there” -Emma Gibbs

“I think the only thing that let down this production, and it’s the tiniest little nit-picky thing I could think of was just  the length in between scene changes but because you had the orchestra there on stage you end up watching them in these periods” -David Brennan

“You were always engaged” -Emma Gibbs

”Lilly cooper played a brilliant geek” “That was hilarious!...I felt like her performance was particularly strong” -David Brennan & Emma Gibbs

“I think everyone in the cast did a brilliant job” -David Brennan

“All of the actors were so good they could have performed the whole thing just in white or black and just by  the way the moved themselves and the accents they were putting on I could’ve believed anything “-Emma Gibbs

“I would definitely recommend everyone to go see it…its extremely entertaining, beautiful to watch and something I haven’t seen done in the Barn before” -David Brennan

For the full review listen to YorWorld this Sunday ( 24th Novemeber) from 2pm.

Still unsure about whether to see the show check out our exclusive preview here on the URY Player.
 

Review: 'GamePlan'

Published on 3/3/2013. Link to original post
By Joseph D'angelo



GamePlan is a tricky play. A complex blend of outright bizarre humour and genuinely provocative drama, the play can throw an audience into an uncomfortable ride of emotions; a ride which needs to be carefully measured and paced in order to be effective. At times during Alex Baldry’s production of GamePlan, this was perfect, but occasionally this crucial element lapsed and the audience were thrown into an unintentional feeling of unease.

Alan Ayckbourn’s play relays the financial struggles of the Saxon family, comprising of Sorrel (Sophie Mann) and her mother, Lynette (Flora Ogilvy). In the midst of having a runaway husband and losing her job, Lynette struggles with a smoking problem, exacerbated by the tumultuous relationship she has with her daughter and with her daughter’s dimwitted but well intentioned friend, Kelly (Maria Terry). When the situation becomes dire and Lynette threatens to move the family out of London, Sorrel hatches a plan to make a quick buck, but this plan unfortunately involves her selling her body.

At the core of this play is the dynamic of family life. Flora Ogilvy seems to be in her prime when playing an older woman, and pulls of forty two year old Lynette with a finesse and subtlety that leads you never to doubt the fact that she is Sorrel’s mother. That said, she truly shines in moments of heated dispute and tension, and a scene which has her sat beside her daughter on the sofa in silence, angrily puffing away at a cigarette following yet another domestic, is one of the most touching and beautiful in the play.

Much too should be said of the relationship between Sorrel and Kelly, which at every moment seemed entirely genuine and  showed something of the bond the cast must have achieved when working on this production. Maria Terry’s performance as Kelly acts as the comedic core of the play, and nearly every one of her lines had me in stitches. Terry managed a perfect blend of humility and comic timing in her role, something that is very difficult to achieve, and her performance stood out because of this. Also impressive were the comedic bit-parts in the form of the chillingly disturbing yet hilarious client, Leo (James Dixon) and the appearance of a ridiculous police duo (Gabrielle James and Stevie Jeram), whose presence added a note of sinister hilarity with Jeram’s tempestuous changes of moods and James’s impressive spiel of biblical quotations.

And the play on a whole followed a similar theme. The moments of comedy (a scene at the end of the first act where Sorrel meets her first ‘client’ is truly hilarious) are what shine in the play, albeit at the sacrifice of the more dramatic moments of the play. The pacing of the comedy is almost pitch-perfect but is at odds with the scenes that bookend it. Rapturous farce is almost immediately turned into sincere drama and this transition doesn’t work as the audience aren’t given time to adjust. Nor are the actors, who move into scenes of emotion still smiling and reeling from the explosion of comedy just before. This put Sophie Mann as Sorrel into a difficult position of keeping the play on course, a job which she attempted admirably but failed to pull off. Despite this, her portrayal of a sixteen year old girl in turmoil was accurate and, at times, touching.

The confusing blend of drama and comedy was not aided by what appeared to be at times bizarre music choices. When entering the Barn, the audience were treated to the Spice Girls blaring out over a perfectly recreated apartment (once again showing the versatility of that little black space!) complete with Lino floor tiles and a kitchen. In moments like this, music served to create a 90s sort of feel to the production, aided by the use of carefully selected props from the era. But at times it intruded and jarred the lines between comedy and drama further, such as the use of a well known ‘Steps’ song to accompany a, well, tragedy.
Although confused about what it is, GamePlan is still an impressive piece of theatre and the scenes of comedy are truly brilliant and will have you laughing long after you’ve left the barn. If not for this alone, it is absolutely worth a visit. 

You can listen to Joseph's review by visiting the URY Player

Review: 'The Woman in Black'

Published on 26/2/2013. Link to original post
By James Metcalf




The Woman in Black is, by now, a piece of familiarity to most people. Whether as a novel, play, or film, many of us have experienced the terror first hand (or at least been told about it by a wide-eyed friend), but not even that will prepare you for the production by Robin Herford at York’s Theatre Royal.

The play begins on the well-trodden boards of an empty stage, with a single figure reading from a manuscript in a frightened, mouse-like voice. He is interrupted by a much younger man, who condescends to give the man advice on projection and energy (‘for the sake of his audience’). I won’t give it all away, but these early scenes are humorous and light, which serves only to break down any defences you might have built against the terror you are sure to experience later on. They each play out the story of Gothic melancholy, taking on the roles of peripheral characters, until the one figure they could not draw upon by themselves is re-awakened for the audience.

There were screams a-plenty, rest assured, yet the performances of Julian Forsyth, who played Arthur Kipps, and Antony Eden, who played the gentleman acting the part of the lawyer in his youth, did not suffer for this. They were clearly so used to it, as their delivery did not break for an instant. Every time the wasted face of the woman in black appeared, or the repetitive and unnerving rhythm of the rocking chair took hold, shrieks could be heard throughout the theatre, but their faces were immovable; as though they really were in Eel Marsh House.

What was perhaps more unnerving than this supposed tranquillity or the very presence of the woman herself, was the sound effects, designed by Gareth Owen. His rocking chair, music box, pony and trap, and, of course, the scream of the dying child in the marsh, were ever present and unpredictable, to the extent that the audience did not want to turn around, lest the woman be there, her face looming above their heads. And Kevin Sleep’s lighting was simple yet effective in its creation of the shade cast by branches, and the moon through an open window, which, when added to the sound and the incredibly dynamic set design, courtesy of Michael Holt, altered the experience immeasurably. The three-dimensional staging, partitioned by a gauze curtain and a staircase, and the eerie atmosphere created by a twilit stage and sporadically sudden creaking transformed a horror movie into a dramatic, theatrical experience that belongs within touching distance.

Brilliant acting, staging, and direction aside, the adaptation of a relatively short novel (by Susan Hill) for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt is a work of no small genius. His way of setting up the play as a piece of theatre in itself seemed to ask a little too much to ask of the audience; yet the leap was not all that far. In fact, once the exposition had taken place, the audience accepted the new premise and promptly forgot about it, becoming embroiled in the drama and spectacle of an expertly enacted performance. As Forsyth and Eden intermittently narrated each scene when necessary, alternately leaving the rest to the audience’s imagination, there was never a moment in which we were lost or confused; in fact, the play was so easy to understand that I personally felt present in the marshes just outside the small, haunted township of isolated Crythin Gifford.

Whether you’ve read the novel or seen the film, or even if you’ve seen the play before, Herford’s production of The Woman in Black is something to see. The acting is immediately engaging, the performers are instantly likeable, and the sound, lighting, and staging are so expertly practised, they are made to look easy. In the tremendously impressive setting of the Theatre Royal, this is an experience that is immediately successful, being both exactly what you’d expect, as well as an awful lot more besides.

Review: 'God of Carnage'

Published on 20/2/2013. Link to original post


God of Carnage, written by Yasmina Reza, is a play about two sets of parents having a big argument over an incident that happened between their children at school. The play succeeds in challenging the aura of respectability and solidity of your average middle class family while questioning the ideas of certainty, justice and childhood and the effects that adults can have on children. It is a play with absurdist pacing with spikes of chaos separated by eerie calmness. It is also a play very difficult to get right.

Where the director Rory McGregor triumphs is his obvious talent for getting the most out of his cast. It has become clichéd to talk about ‘chemistry’ between actors but Mungo Tatton-Brown, Helena Clark, Max Fitzroy-Stone and Claire Curtis-Ward feed off each other with such ease that the phrase becomes mightily appropriate. God of Carnage is definitely an actor’s play. With such simple set design, the audience relies on the actors to express themselves and to keep the pacing quick and snappy. The moments where Curtis-Ward and Fitzroy-Stone were subtly insulting each other was a joy to behold because of their understated yet savage delivery.

The acting in this play becomes more difficult due to the development each character goes through. At the start, they keep things hidden and feel each other out, playing the part of the concerned parent and part of a stable marriage. The mood changes are often sudden and intense, which is always risking alienating the audience but this play did not suffer from such shortcomings.

McGregor did a fine job at using the bare stage to its full effect. The couches were situated very close to the audience, which created a more intimate feel while the phone was situated far away from everything else, which meant the scene would totally change in dynamic when somebody answered. Though the couches were the focal point, there were times when the characters would disperse, usually during arguments. It meant the play never became stale, which was something the film version could more aptly be accused of. McGregor has outdone Polanski it seems.

God of Carnage is one of the finest plays I’ve seen at the Drama Barn and all four leads are deserving of plaudits. This is exactly the kind of play that DramaSoc should do more often with its interesting characters, short running time and cheap set. It is of little surprise that it has achieved national acclaim and has been entered into the National Student Drama Festival, where I’m sure it will continue to gather admirers.

Review: '9-5: The Musical'

Published on 10/2/2013. Link to original post
By Ellie Roberts




A great mix of raucous comedy, storming feminism and pounding music, Dolly Parton’s very own 9-5: The Musical certainly gives Mamma Mia and Jersey Boys a run for their money. Opening with the title song’s crashing crescendo, a spectacularly colourful stage and a descending projection of Dolly herself, the show promised everything delightfully tacky, boisterous and unconventional that one could hope for from one of the most distinctive country singers of all time.

Modelled closely on the iconic 1980s film and book by Patricia Resnick, the tale centres around three feisty employees of Consolidated Companies: Doralee Rhodes (Amy Lennox), Judy Bernely (Natalie Casey) and Violet Newstead (Jackie Clune) all exploited by their lascivious and chauvinist boss, Franklin Hart. Fed up with the "boys club" style of business, they decide to take matters into their own hands, exacting a somewhat absurd revenge on Hart whilst creating a progressive worplace utopia with job-sharing and day care.

A brief summary of the narrative however cannot do justice to the eclectic mix of scenes. Carried along by moments of kidnap, pot-smoking, dead bodies in car boots and even the casual bit of S&M, it was easy to forget the structural lacking of the plot. The superb writing also helped to compensate for narrative shortcomings. punchy lines like "your arse is grass and I'm a lawnmower" were interspersed with tender and naturalistic dialogue so the show achieved a fine balance between bawdy comedy and touching realism. Although it was Jackie Clune as Violet Newstead the no-nonsense office veteran who really stood out, it was the supporting characters who really gave the performance its oomph. Lori Hayley Fox's appearance as the office drunk Margaret provided not only the laughs but offered a subtle social commentary.

9 to 5 certainly took the tone of Parton’s own feminism, once joking that she “wanted to be the first woman to burn her bra, but it would have taken the fire department four days to put it out”.  The “girl-power” agenda took on a comic rhetoric that may well have caused the more serious feminists to squirm in their seats. Yet whilst the feminist sensibility was clearly vintage, the spectacular array of costume and the intricacies of the set transported the audience back to the year 1979 demanding we take the out-dated feminism with a pinch of salt. 

It was however the set and scene transitions that prevented me from becoming truly absorbed in Dolly’s time-capsule. It seemed at times that the stage was slightly too large for the scenery that attempted to fill it, a shortcoming only illuminated rather than disguised by the brightness of the lighting. The set changes also proved to be fairly slow moving disturbing the fast pace of the plot.

The musical score was performed to a very high degree. Particularly impressive were the performances from Amy Lennox as Doralee (the bright blonde hillbilly modelled on Dolly herself) and Bonnie Langford as Roz Keith, the sycophantic assistant to Franklin Hart. However the music itself was disappointing, lacking the freshness and diversity of Parton’s own musical repertoire. Whilst songs such as Backwards Barbie struck a chord with Parton’s own anthems of empowerment, the songs in the second act did begin to merge into one another not least by the repeated 9-5 riff that acted not so much a transitional smoother as a jarring interruption. The show certainly only presented one side of Dolly Parton. The radically political yet delicate songwriter of Coat of Many Colours and My Tennessee Mountain Home didn’t come across at all.

So perhaps the plot was ridiculously implausible, the songs a little samey and the set changes clumsy but if you want an alternative to Reflex to get your cheese and feel-good fix then 9-5: The Musical definitely fits the bill. It will certainly be an enjoyable night and it is impossible not to come out beaming. And if you do see it, as a projected Dolly herself commands, then “tell everyone all about it” and if you don’t, well, “y’all better keep your big mouth shut.” 

You can hear Ellie's review by visiting the URY Player

Review: 'The Physicists'

Published on 10/2/2013. Link to original post
By James Metcalf


The Physicists is a play about three supposedly mad scientists, who have found their way into a German sanatorium, and who have seemingly gotten comfortable in their seclusion. Their formerly secretive and private lives are, however, disturbed when it is discovered by the police and chief prosecutor that three of the nurses guarding the patients have been murdered by their charges. In a sudden change of narrative, these killings – all of them carried out by strangulation – turn out to be necessities in the complex and intricate plots of government operatives who turn out to have more on their mind than physics.


Funnily enough, this convoluted and esoteric piece of theatre by the Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt and directed for the Dramabarn by Alex Wakelam, with production by Rachel Walter, is not all that fun for the audience.

A play about madness, you might think, would make for a rather engaging experience – and this it certainly does, but the writing of Durrenmatt, performed in so amateur a production (and I use the word trepidatiously, not meaning to derogate but merely stating a fact) is something to be avoided in future endeavours. Much of the exposition was unnecessary and long-winded, causing the play to forestall the occasional compelling scenes, and the histories of the scientists themselves was repeated so often, I could almost recite them myself.

Such repetition did not, however, provide any semblance of clarity. The scientific terminology, while convincing, was exclusivist and hardly accessible in a student production, and, at times, one felt as if the actors themselves hardly comprehended their own dialogue. Fortunately, this play was pulled from the fire by a whisker by the talent of the young men and women who decided to take on the challenge.

Particularly engaging was Harry Whittaker as the unpredictable and incredibly charming Sir Isaac Newton, whose mammoth wig perfectly captured his ostentatious behaviour. Also convincing was Albert Einstein, played by Peter Marshall, who pulled off the muggy sadness and regret of Einstein’s later life to great effect, and, as always, the miraculous Zoe Biles managed to bring the audience close to tears in her confessions of love and willingness to sacrifice herself and her life to the lunatic ravings of an unnerving Mobius, played by Rory Hern. 

Unfortunately, the performances of other cast members did not match those of their contemporaries. There were many mistakes, which smacked of unpreparedness, and some even seemed relatively unenthused about the concept of acting in a play of so little sense; this was compounded by the confusion caused by having several cast members playing as many as three parts, which drew attention not to the characters, but to the actors, detracting from the writing which could not afford to be subject to any distraction.

It is a sad thing when a Dramabarn performance cannot stand up against those from other occasions, but this is very little to do with the society and its production. The barn was as usual decked out in a way that services the play without diverting any attention from the actors, and it was nice to see the music and lighting department play a more prominent role in the production, where the scope for their abilities was realised as the violin of Einstein frequently broke the often palpable tension, and the spotlights acted as the sun, setting as days ended and the nights began.

As one might expect from a play about madness, The Physicists often descended into moments of insanity itself, clouding the occasional lucidity of the dialogue; however, this was not the fault of anyone but the writer. The performances were, as usual, more than up to par and it’s difficult to knock the spirit behind the production – it’s wonderful to see the Drama Society challenging itself in such a way – but this does not mean that the audience had as good a time as in previous weeks, nor should the works of Durrenmatt surface again in a venue like the barn, which is so used to productions of incomparable depth and glory. 

You can listen to James' review by visiting the URY Player

Review: The Garden

Published on 5/2/2013. Link to original post
By Zoe Biles


There is something to be said for theatre which does not shout or scream, but rather is subtle and quiet, forcing the audience to think deeper than they usually would. The Garden, written by Zinnie Harris and directed by Rosa Crompton did just that. However, stellar acting performances aside, there was something distinctly missing from this production, something that just didn’t reach the thought provoking level of the script.

The Garden is a one act performance of the three act play, taking place after an unknown disaster in an unknown location. All the audience have information wise are two characters, Jane (Lily Cooper) and Mac (Edd Riley), as we are given a window into their lives following said disaster. And the world we witness is turned on its head by a small plant that appears underneath their linoleum kitchen floor, one morning. In a society where “everything dies except for this”, both characters are forced to question their sanity, their relationship, and their future in general.

Walking into the Drama Barn, the audience were immediately thrown into the drama of the play, as the dim lighting and thrust stage made us all feel like we were inside the home of Jane and Mac as soon as we sat down. Cooper being on stage, sprawled over a wooden chair, distant and unassuming, created a sombre and uneasy tone, and made the audience begin to see the world through her character’s eyes. The lino floor and wooden cabinet were the only distinguishing features of the set, successfully matching the raw and often bleak moments in the script.

In many ways the intimacy of the Drama Barn created the perfect space for such a play to be performed, as it had the potential to intensely impact such a small audience. Disappointingly, the performance did not quite reach such a level. Cooper and Riley were both excellent in their portrayal of a married couple falling apart at the seams. Cooper in particular carried her character with a piercing vulnerability that touched a lot of the audience. The chemistry between the two actors was maintained admirably throughout the entire show, a hard feat with a two-person cast. Riley’s performance epitomised that of a modern day business man, however lacked in strength a couple of times. Nevertheless, the acting was impressive and powerful as a collective.

It seemed to me that the points where the play lacked impact or strength were in the moments of hurriedness or rushed action. With the play being no longer than 40 minutes, I felt that there were definite moments where both movement and acting could have been slowed, to allow the audience to feel the intensity of the scenes. Transitions were also hugely messy, with one black out lasting what seemed like a lifetime, as we heard both actors work hard to move the set around for the next scene. The undoubted moments of genius appeared when dialogue began to flow, and the two actors eased into their element, something which should be congratulated and admired for such a raw and minimalistic script.

Overall, this play worked well with the material it had, and largely suffered due to technical decisions rather than the performances given by the actors. It was very refreshing to see a different style of play be performed in the Barn, and was definitely something which should not have been missed. 

You can listen to Zoe's review by visiting the URY Player