Test Copy – New Theatre – Review by David Minogue
Sep 4th – Sep 9th
In Test Copy, a new play written and performed by Roseanna Purcell, the set is just a rectangle with a white border painted on to the black stage. The only object on the stage is a boom box music player which is placed at one corner of the rectangle. Over the course of the hour long play this space, through the narrator’s language and in the audience’s minds, becomes a school classroom, a car park, a home and a stage. The play’s protagonist is Louise Fennessy, a transition year student at St Catherine’s Convent secondary school in a Tipperary town. Louise tells her own story and also voices several other characters. Test Copy explores many themes through the tropes of what is commonly found in the traditional High School drama genre in cinema. These themes include social status, power dynamics and peer pressure. It is part Mean Girls and Heathers but also has elements of Molly Shannon’s comedy Superstar and the much darker drama Welcome to the Dollhouse.
The opening scene is a wonderful barrage of action through language as we are told of the frantic chaos of a quickly escalating row during a Home Economics class in the school. Various students are mentioned and at first it is hard to concentrate on who the other key players in this drama will be. It however effectively sets the scene for how Louise begins to try and stand out in a school of 742 students, 89 of which are her fellow transition year classmates. Initially, Louise is just one of the many girls in the school. She is neither victim nor bully. She is a face in the crowd who longs to be part of the gang headed by the infamous Phyllis McInerney, who rules the school.
The early scenes in the play charts how Louise hero worships Phyllis, how they connect and the consequences that follow. Roseanna Purcell always retains Louise as the play’s protagonist, while giving voice and characterisation to the other characters. Of all of these, Phyllis is the most fascinating. There are no costume changes in the play but you never forget which character is being portrayed.
Purcell fluidly changes characters through use of her voice and posture. The lighting also played a considerable part in this. The simple movement of Louise stepping closer to the audience and her gaze fixed ahead, with the overhead lights on her face was very effective. I found it interesting that the play is set during the transition year of Louise’s school life. She is on the cusp of something but is a character who does not know what to do when things rapidly happen for her.
Test Copy is a play that could easily be extended out, with other actors playing some of the key characters. However, what captures your imagination is how Purcell gives each character their individuality through language, accent or even just a laugh. The characters that dominate Louise’s life are presented through her and that is what makes it fascinating to watch.
Written and performed by Roseanna Purcell
Directed by Pat Kiernan
Produced by Nenagh Arts Centre
Choreography by Jazmin Chiodi
Lighting by Pius McGrath