'The Graduate' - Anonymous Review

Sheffield University Theatre Company’s production of The Graduate is arguably some of its finest work, from the believable and grounded acting to the striking mise-en-scene between the lighting, set and costume, the show is a complete success.

The acting was so mature and polished in this production. In the small cast each actor embodied their character perfectly and delivered their performance with an air of experience and professionality. Wilf Walsworth in the lead role of Benjamin masterfully embodied the disillusioned, angsty naivety of the character, as Benjamin has lost his purpose with the graduation of his degree, and searches for meaning in the arms of an older woman only to discard her for her innocent daughter Elaine. Cerys Hayes was astonishing as Mrs Robinson, a very difficult and layered role to play, with her surface seductiveness and maturity as well as her deep vulnerability which has led her to become bitter and hateful. The interactions between Hayes and Walsworth were the highlight of the production for me, switching seamlessly between comedy to raging arguments to passivity. Moreover, Lucy Bytheway played Elaine with a particular level of shrewdness that made the character more grounded and relatable. Overall, the cast of this production was so strong and did this very adult narrative justice with their mature performances.

The lighting of this show, designed by Jonathan Payne and Megan Roberts, was a stand out element of this show which really served to tie everything together. I particularly loved the elegant yet ominous use of silhouettes against a gauze to show the “grotesque” party guests lurking downstairs, the visual equivalent of clinking glasses and forced laughter, thus portraying Benjamin’s feeling of entrapment and disillusionment. Furthermore, the use of coloured lighting such as blue, green and pink in order to convey particular emotions to the audience such as melancholy, jealousy and love was effective and in turn evoked an emotional response from the audience. Moreover, the use of a square of light to signify a room or even a phone box, married wonderfully with the simple set – particularly the poignant and repeated use of spotlight on the looming double bed – a symbol of Benjamin’s sexual journey. As well as this, the triumph of the projection against the gauze, which has often been more of a hindrance to past productions due to technical difficulties, was visually stunning and served to set the scene for different locations, particularly the aesthetic view of the bridge against a pink and purple sky that greeted the audience as they took their seats.

The playful use of Simon and Garfunkel’s music, an homage to the soundtrack of the movie, juxtaposed the melancholic moments of the play and emphasised the funny scenes making it feel at times more like a comedic romp than a serious drama.

Another effective element of the production was the costuming, designed by Katie Kelson and Kate Alhadeff, which was seamlessly period appropriate and had an air of effortless style – each costume was perfect for the particular character, especially Mrs Robinson’s conservative yet seductive style of dress and Elaine’s casual and sweet outfits.

Overall, this production was a wonderful way for SUTCo to start of their year of performances and I eagerly anticipate what they will do next.

**** 4/5 stars