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29th November 2022

Review: Stump (UMDS)

The Mancunion reviews Stum, performed by the University of Manchester Drama Society at The Brewers in Gay Village
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Review: Stump (UMDS)
Photo: Amber Daly

A night brimming with frolicking animals and hysteria on the edge of witchcraft. All this while slaying a club in the legendary Gay Village. The play follows the after-effects on Ingrid (Holly Langlois) and Finley (James Murison) after an enormous oak is felled outside their home. Ingrid won’t let go and believes the tree must live again.

This rendition, written by Eris Kennish, explores the inner turmoil of a couple after an ancient Oak was slain in front of their house to make way for a major motorway construction. Exploring strong themes of a threatened natural environment and community.

The story starts off with impressive and majestical dancing furries swirling through the audience. As they slowly approach the main stage, Ingrid is standing paralysed with mourning for the stump before her; all that remains of the mighty oak. In this fairy den atmosphere, the animals twirl and throw confetti before her very eyes, but she is alien to this. Celebration is happening all around Ingrid, but she can’t seem to join in the fun. The animals consisted of a magnificent dancing troupe including the magnetic Fox (Carlos Lee), the graceful Crow (Isobel Oldroyd), the slinking Snake (Stella Stevens), and the swirling Moth (Ben Chesworth).

The Brewers in Gay Village hosted the performance, while upstairs the club was in full swing. People were waiting with anticipation to watch the UK Drag Race Finale and the music from upstairs reverberated through the ceiling and walls. Our audience members sipped from pints bought from the bar at the side.

Before the play even commenced, the director (Adelaide Marshall) made an announcement from the DJ corner, welcoming everyone for the night ahead. As Adelaide intended, a theme of community and teamwork was apparent throughout the world of the play. The dancers were always working together effectively in a group. They even executed duet dance-offs despite the constraints of the small stage. Finley stayed loyally close to comfort and reassure a hopeless Ingrid. The soundtrack couldn’t be queued or recorded on the system, so Adelaide played the music and sound effects from his DJ set. This air of authenticity to the music combined with the jovial atmosphere only a club can guarantee, and the performance of the dancers and cast ensured a captivating night for all.

Finley, the golden retriever partner of Ingrid, struggles throughout to bring sense back to the stubborn and anguished Ingrid. When people take turns standing on the tree stump during a birthday party (to make speeches), Ingrid gets especially annoyed. This leads to an intense argument between her and Finley. They finally relent when an awkward and almost sarcastic “Happy Birthday” is sung to remind them of where they are.

Still tense when cutting the cake for everyone, Finley cuts himself which sends him to the hospital and Ingrid warms up slightly as does the atmosphere as Ben Chesworth satirises the A&E waiting room with his comedic portrayal of an overworked Nurse. Tensions between Ingrid and her – sister Grace (Stella Stevens) also escalate. Grace is pregnant and needs help from her only sister. Ingrid doesn’t seem to fully comprehend what is going on anywhere in her life.

Still crazier is when Ingrid calls on dark magic and help from the forest creatures to resurrect the tree. Starting slowly and gradually gaining grandeur the furries reappear and surround her. They sacrifice parts of themselves to be added to the bowl of ingredients. Ingrid begins chanting and the creatures enact a hypnotising and powerful dance which seems to propel the incantation. This draws out longer and longer and slowly loses ambition as Ingrid realises her spell isn’t working.

In the final scene, critically upset if she wasn’t already before, Ingrid gets on top of the trunk. She finally recognised the beasts around her. She welcomes them and lets them lower her down to sit and one by one they surround and embrace her. When she has returned from whatever plane of reality she was on and accepts the furries as her friends. Ingrid has moved on from grief and has returned to trusting and listening to those around her.

Stump was performed at The Brewers Club in Gay Village from November 23 to 25. Four Furries and a Necromancer title is courtesy of Jack So.

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