On-line Reviews

"Ersatz" The People's Play 2012

Written by Seamus Doran on November 20 2012

"Ersatz" The People's Play by Kevan Ogden plays the People's Theatre Newcastle this week until Saturday evening with performances starting at 7.30pm.

The People's Theatre is integral to semi-professional theatre here in the North East and our cultural life generally.
A proud and distinguished part of that heritage is its support for new writing and playwrights.
Bi-annually a competition is held for new work and the winning entry this year is this interesting play by retired English teacher Kevan Ogden.
Title "Ersatz" a German word meaning substitute (usually inferior in quality) it tells the story of a contemporary two grown up child professional family, that out of the blue is stricken with tragedy.
All the family members are traumatized but react in different ways.
Mother retreats into a parallel world detached from her emotions and the expectations of her family.
Dad perseveres but his centre in the words of W B Yeats "cannot hold".
Sister Kay already old-fashioned in attitude and temperament appears initially the strongest member of the family.
That strength becomes the glue that binds them together.
Appearances however can be deceptive.
Long buried hurts and suppressed disappointments snake through the left over lives that they have to live in the new circumstances that they are now placed in.
Is this new reality a substitute life to what had gone before or were they all living an "inferior" existence before the tragedy?
The small ensemble cast was note perfect in their possession of their characters and interaction with each other.
Eileen Davidson as mother Sheila played an unsympathetic character in a very human and sensitive manner.
I enjoyed the writer's well-aimed digs at his former profession and his insightful comments on the "mores" of modern living.
This is a thoughtful and well-crafted work that delivers a heavy emotional punch.

Subtly written and intimately staged this new play promises great things from this new writer for the stage and is a worthy addition to the prestigious new work premiered at The People's Theatre.
An intimate and theatrical evening of entertainment that you would be well advised to catch all this week until Saturday.

Review of Ersatz by Kevan Ogden (Winner, People's Play Award) on REMOTE GOAT

Review of ERSATZ

"People's play delivers 'real' drama"

by Anna Ambelez for remotegoat on 21/11/12

'Ersatz' is German for substitute as in 'chicory is ersatz coffee' meaning it is not as good as the real thing. There is nothing 'ersatz' about this play, it presents 'real' drama. Yet it is a little ironic when the central character, Sheila, uses this word she infers she thinks the reverse.

The story centres on the Cartmell family, Sheila, husband Phil and their children Kay and Callum. English teacher Sheila has been suspended from work and the play concerns itself with the resulting trauma, family issues and how they deal with them, or not. It cleverly begins with a phone call giving just enough information to stir interest. Whilst this is a serious thought provoking play, as with life, it is not without humour, even laugh out loud moments. A highly amusing incident in a later scene arises out of an intense moment.

Whilst well written, some scenes could have been shorter, it left too little time for the 'resolve' in the final two scenes, which were rushed and lacked the impact they could have delivered. Timing will undoubtedly come with experience. Overall this is a well-balanced piece having light and shade which benefited from the greatly experienced hand of director, Maggie Watson. I especially liked the duologues between the characters, daughter with mother, daughter with father then with brother. These exchanges brought out different aspects of relationships whilst still carrying the story forward.
Lighting is used to show the various locations which unfortunately mean frequent short blackouts; some pertinent dialogue is difficult to hear, which I feel may have been due to acting inexperience, fortunately it is in a studio space.

It is a very impressive first full length stage play; much new work is more fitted to TV, or could even be directly transferred to radio. "Actions speak louder than words" and it is true of this play, certain scenes reveal more than words alone.

ERSATZ is by a retired north east English teacher, turned writer, Kevan Ogden. His teaching experience shows through the believability of teacher Sheila's recounting of her work situation. Many former winners have achieved success in the writing world. Peter Staughan, a recent BAFTA winner, being one of the better known and I am sure we will hear more of Mr Ogden.

The biennial Peoples Play Award is ran in conjunction with New Writing North. This award was initiated in the eighties by Peter Mortimer, now Artistic Director and founder of Cloud Nine and Tony Childs of The People's Theatre. Peter was at the first night presenting the playwrights prize and said"…. the difference between amateurs and professional is their 'head' and The Peoples have a professional 'head'…." This show is a good example of that and definitely worth a visit.