Review: Forgery

by isised | April 28, 2023

Sitting on a crowded bench in Wadham’s antechapel, waiting for the sold-out performance of Forgery, my first thought was ‘What an enormous organ!’. Once the play began, however, it was clear that the unusual venue was perfect, enhancing the play’s grandeur and menace. The production was also literally in-house: all moving parts were run by Wadham Drama Society. Forgery marked the debut show of author, director and actress Jessica Tabraham. Riffing off the classic country house satire, the play followed “your classic dysfunctional aristocrats” (Tabraham), who came loaded with all the baggage and ensuing drama one might expect. The twist here was the accidental discovery of a medieval manuscript, the dramatic lynchpin which lifted underlying tensions to boiling point. The ‘forgery’ itself lacked depth, with the manuscript’s discovery coming rather abruptly, and no actual forgery occurring within the play, bar the implication that Archibald is attempting to forge his family history. Nonetheless, it served as an interesting catalyst for the web of established conflicts.

The cast was fantastic, led by the star Lucas Haskins in a pitch-perfect performance as the overbearing, emotionally-constipated patriarch Archibald. His wince-making domination of his son, Charles (Grace Stevens) was splendidly complimented by his ‘Mr Toad’ trousers and tweeds. Tabraham’s Catherine also deserves mention, exploding onto the stage in a flurry of party-planning hysteria. Yet she skilfully mitigated the long-suffering wife and mother, using quiet moments of incipient adultery with her old flame Blaze (Lottie Fry), whose quiet dignity was an excellent foil to the excesses and outbursts of Haskins. Grace Bellorini also gave an outstanding turn as Alice, the misanthropic rich-kid daughter, complimented by Eddie Laurence’s coolly suave Uncle Laurence. The wider ensemble, many of whom double roles, made full use of comic relief, from nutty professors with pencil moustaches to vapid garden-party blondes.

The play deftly explored the space of the antechapel. Comprising a bedroom, a study and a dining table (around which the most tension-provoking moments took place), the division of the main stage into thirds allowed for simultaneous scenes, which highlighted the fractures running throughout the family. Or, indeed, Charles attempting to throw shapes on the bed, accompanied by a sudden burst of the Pussycat Dolls ‘Don’t Cha’. Despite the slight lack of clarity, the play was clearly a labour of love for all involved: an excellent effort from WDS, and an impressive start from Tabraham.

Forgery was put on by Wadham Drama Society in Week 7 of Hilary Term.

Words by Madi Hopper.