Review: NUTS DramaFest 2022

A thrilling evening of drama showcasing the talent of students at the university.

multiple writers
11th June 2022
Rehearsals for "The Horse's Mouth". Image credit: Charlie Prothero and Jon Deery
Newcastle University Theatre Society's annual DramaFest returned last Sunday after a three-year COVID induced absence.

Four short plays, each written by Newcastle students and performed by NUTS members made for a varied but always entertaining evening in Venue.

Cache 2099

Tom Gill and Frankie Bonnaddio who play Colin Hozt and Henry Charm in Cache 2099. Image credit: Ricky Pancholi

For the first performance of the night, Venue was transformed into a dystopian game show set, complete with signs dictating the proper reactions to the audience. In the year 2099, manic host, Colin Hozt (Tom Gill), shows contestant Henry Charm (Frankie Bonnaddio) through memories of his relationship, and asks him to guess the correct ending. The fun premise gives way to deeper themes, exploring memory and authenticity as Charm is forced into an existential crisis. Although the second half of the play lost some of the tightness of the first, with Hozt monologuing on issues including, but not limited to, Elon Musk's Mars expedition and rap career, his daddy issues, and God (who was cancelled in 2066), it is propelled by the force of Tom Gill's performance.

Like a dark-timeline Bradley Walsh, with game-show host charisma breaking into full blown mania, Gill is in contrast to the humanity and vulnerability of Bonnaddio's opposite performance. Comic turns from Looney (Jonathan Snelling) and Cheesy (Morven Renfrew) punctuate the philosophical debating with laugh-out-loud moments in spoof dystopian adverts, with lines like "everyone deserves to be euthanized from the comfort of their own home". The acting is solid, the writing thoughtful, and although it drags at points, Cache 2099 stood out as the most interesting play of the night.

Bloody Hysterics

The second play of the evening was a hard-hitting feminist piece by Yasmine Bridge. As the title suggests, the play explores misogyny in its various forms, from the street, to the office, to the nightclub.

The cast of "Bloody Hysterics." Image credit: Yasmine Bridge.

Scenes break into powerful monologues, giving direct testimony of abuse and harassment. All the while the women are loomed over by a trio of creepy blokes standing uncomfortably close, conveying a real sense of danger and claustrophobia. The use of testimony is extremely powerful, forcing the viewer to confront how Society as a whole treats women, or stands by passively in the face of what it knows to be wrong.

The play benefits from its abridged running time compared to the other productions of the night, managing to be much denser, which does wonders for its affect.

As Brechtian, direct, political theatre, Bloody Hysterics pulls no punches.


In a pretty drastic shift of tone, Tim Daft's airport security comedy went for pure laughs. With the writer/director/actor making a case for nominative determinism in the best possible way, no joke was too silly as plastic snakes were flung, women gave birth to bowling balls and many, many double entendres enjoyed.

"Bang!" Image credit: Tim Daft

A simple premise, in which two airport security workers learn of a bomb on a flight and have to interview passengers in search of it, allowed for a variety of characters, with interviews acting almost as standalone sketches. The two interviewers, highly strung Virgil (Sairre Sukphol) and his childish younger colleague Kenny (Tim Daft), form the core of the play with classic comedy duo chemistry and timing as jokes zing back and forth. The play does confuse itself at points, veering too deep into repeated slapstick, but it does not fail to entertain!

Gags may have been hit and miss, but through sheer quantity and enthusiasm enough hit to keep the laughs coming. A mock citizenship test with questions like "What's Britain's national dish?" "Harry Styles" is one highlight, with more big laughs coming at a suave pilot removing one pair of aviator shades to reveal another pair beneath. A finale involving a woman named Shania Twain, a drunk pilot and lots of shouting summed up the general tone: basically pantomime but everyone loves a panto.

The Horse's Mouth

Charlie Prothero and The Courier's own Jon Deery aim for more ambitious laughs with their new play. A new employee (Martha Watson) at an 'aromatic' (dead rats under the heating) Darlington pub meets a variety of odd regulars. Said odd regulars all get a chance to exhibit their quirks in the running time of this slice-of-life piece, and while they're compelling, they do come off as slightly Flander-ized at points., but the stellar cast plays it exceptionally well.

Directors of "The Horse's Mouth", Charlie Prothero and Jon Deery. Image credit: Louise Rimmer.

The play's musical moments are the highlight. Carol (Fionnuala Bradbury), apparently the pub's only sane customer, provides beautiful songs with guitar accompaniment. In contrast, a man named Van Gogh (Ben Stoddart), dressed up like Chet Hanks minus an ear, delivers some questionable bars with admirable energy. 'DJ' (Luke Nightingale) performs deadpan, monotone Queen karaoke, and Watson's character closes with a rousing 'My Way'. The play leaves you with your heart reasonably warmed, and makes one think of the special place the pub holds as an English cultural institution.

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