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Review: Dazzling

A stunning portrayal of the dark depths of human emotion


A poignantly relatable and incisively funny piece of student-written drama, it is no wonder that ‘Dazzling’ has completely sold out both nights of its performance. From the heights of blazing euphoria to the depths of burning pain, the show’s sole character, Alix (Charlie Scott-Haynes), confides in us about their experience of love, addiction and friendship.

(Image credits: Viv Wang)

Armed with a beautifully written script by Holly Sewell, Alix’s narrative charts how their obsession with striking stranger, Fiona, seeps into their life and dredges up the darkness that lies beneath the surface. Undoubtedly tragic, the show tackles some challenging themes, but there was something so joyous in its raw depiction of emotion, simultaneously suppressed yet overwhelming.

At the heart of the narrative is Alix’s struggle to manage the conflict between the romantic allure of a creative, unencumbered existence with an intellectual soulmate, and their cynicism about the mundane, inescapable reality of domesticity. Despite the intensity of such a role, Charlie charted Alix’s descent into deafening despair completely convincingly, exposing a mind haunted by their poetic muse, the past.

(Image credits: Holly Sewell)

Despite being the only onstage presence, Charlie’s performance invigorated offstage characters that gave further nuance to Alix’s tragedy and a great depth to her monologue tracing the consequences of obsession. The invocation of the loyal best friend figure, the overbearing mother, and the insufferably self-righteous boss was almost tangible, and at times alleviated some of the heavier subject matter with their more comedic interludes.

It is miraculous what such a small group of students managed to achieve in so little time. With a production team of seven and a cast of one, what may have been lost in perfecting lines and minor set details was gained in the intimacy of the performance and the personal investment clearly held by all members of the crew.

(Image credits: Viv Wang)

The setting of Pembroke’s New Cellars allowed the team to further enable this intimate relationship. The small stage was provocatively utilised as a permeable space where Alix could relive events of the past in the familiar disarray of their room. Engagement with the set itself made this interconnection all the more immediate, and as Alix switched between jackets recalling different moments, the audience could not help but be further swept up in the tempestuous narrative. We were yet more immersed in Alix’s unstable mind by the equally intrusive lighting managed by Ewan Woods, and the sound accompaniments selected by George Wise.

Overall, a stunning production that I could not recommend enough. Well interspersed with a more lighthearted humour, ‘Dazzling’ was a pertinent reminder that darkness pervades even the brightest spaces, and there is happiness to be found in simplicity.

5/5

Dazzling is showing at Pembroke New Cellars at 7 pm from 5th-6th March. Book your tickets here.

Feature Image Credits: Katie Wrench

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