Friday the 14th Review
Newcastle University Drama Society is back with their latest madcap student production, Friday the 14th, and Jack Moran has the review.
Like a horror movie franchise that just keeps making sequels, the University of Newcastle’s one and only Drama Society is back again with their latest original work Friday the 14th. As you may have guessed from the title, Friday the 14th is a parody of slasher films like Halloween and Friday the 13th (obviously), that sees a band of young adults being terrorised by a masked killer known only as Birdface at an isolated cabin in the bush.
First and foremost, this is a student-scripted play and that often shows. Some of the jokes are clunky, some scene transitions are flat, and some bits go on too long. At most universities across the country, a drama society performing an entirely original play is unusual and the fact that student-led scripts often tend to be a little rough around the edges is why. Does that mean the UON Drama Society should abandon original plays and start doing more pre-existing works?
Among the rough parts of the script, there are many more moments of genuine gold within Friday the 14th that can only come from a student-penned play. There’s a level of absurdity and student-targeted humour that you can’t get from ‘professional’ plays. Could you get meme jokes and a character shouting “Yeet!” in a performance of the Crucible? Probably not, though I would straight up see that adaption in a heartbeat. As with all of the Drama Society’s original performances thus far, Friday the 14th is a wild ride from start to finish. If anything, after seeing the Society’s Fair Retail last year which had a whole musical number that left me and my friends saying to each other “Oh my god, is she going to fuck that oven?”, I was expecting even more.
The plot was fine. It made sense and was relatively coherent. You could tell that they did make some effort to make the twist ending make sense and not just come out of nowhere. I was pretty surprised by the ending but when I went back and thought about the different scenes there were dots to connect that made that ending logical. It did feel, however, like there weren’t enough of them and some of the few were dropped in during a last rewrite rather than worked into the narrative as a whole but it was fine enough.
The use of ghosts as a plot device was a fun choice that meant that funny characters we didn’t get to see much of because of, well, murder still got plenty of stage-time and helped to move the plot forward. The mid-play appearance of Jesus accompanied by his guitar-wielding sidekick Mary was a nice break from the action that changed the mood and pace a little bit and was so incredibly weird that it worked.
I think the strength of the play was definitely the characters and the performances behind them. One of the standouts during the show I saw was Meighan Winchester’s Bethany. Her introduction scene didn’t give a huge amount to work with but later scenes really let her showcase her physical comedy and ability to just slip in some incredibly funny one-liners into her performance. The character wasn’t on stage for long but it was definitely a delight to see what she was going to do next. Amanda Williamson’s Hannah was also a great character to watch. The vapid, air-headed blonde is a pretty tired trope but the performance really went beyond just that and managed to take what could have been a fairly one-note character in any other script and made her a highlight.
Mandy’s character, for example, is one where the writers successfully subverted some of the expectations and tropes that are normally present in horror films and that was great to see. Other times, however, they went too far and went too meta and it kind of slowed down the pacing and plot or was just not that funny. I think there are only so many times that characters in a horror-movie inspired play can say “this is totally like we’re in a horror movie” before the metacommentary gets a little stale.
All in all, I loved Friday the 14th and I would recommend it to anyone to go see it. It’s fun, it’s wild, it’s absurd and you can tell that all the students involved are having a great time and that’s honestly the best part for me. The cast is good, the jokes that land (which most do) are solid, and it definitely deserves to be watched. Friday the 14th’s run finishes this weekend with three shows left.
Check out the Facebook event for more details and get your tickets now!
Feature image: Newcastle University Drama Society/Jack Madden, via Facebook.