Over the past few years the Westville Boys’ High School Performing Arts Department, under the leadership of Luke Holder the Director of Cultural Activities at the institution, has raised the bar pretty high when it comes to the overall standard of student productions.
The good news is that with their latest offering A Few Good Men which finishes its run tonight, they clear that bar comfortably with a production of quite extraordinary quality.
A Few Good Men was written by Aaron Sorkin and first produced on Broadway in 1989. It is, however, possibly best remembered as the 1992 film starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore. It tells the story of military lawyers at a court-martial who uncover a high-level conspiracy in the course of defending their clients: two United States Marines who are accused of murdering one of their brethren while stationed at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
WBHS’ rendering of this enthralling courtroom drama is intense, riveting and dynamic. It positively sizzles on stage, while the synergy it generates is palpable. The skill displayed in all aspects of the production belies the fact that it is, in fact, a school production.
Before seeing the play, I thought that I would not single any individuals as school productions are always such combined and concerted efforts on behalf of everyone involved. However, the performances given by the three lead actors were of such a high standard that it would be remiss of me not to comment on them.
Murray Clark plays Lt J G Daniel Kaffee, the military lawyer assigned the job of defending the accused. Kafee does not take his responsibilities too seriously but as the story unfolds he becomes a perceptive strategist determined to see justice done. Clark’s development of the character is convincing and impressive.
Christine Behrmann creates a strong, passionate and determined character for Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway. As the only female cast member she produces a dignified and intense performance.
Just about stealing the show is Pierre Parrott as the arrogant and bombastic Lt Col Nathan Jessep. It is a plumb role, full of rage and bluster. Parrott makes the most of it in a dramatic and noteworthy performance. If this young man chooses to make a career out of the performing arts, he could have a big future.
All the other performers in the 31-strong cast give their all. One can only imagine the hours of rehearsal and preparation everyone must have put in. They should all be justifiably proud of their achievements.
It is difficult to find fault in this production. The costumes were beautifully authentic and showed excellent attention to detail. The rather austere set is innovative and effective, while the sound and lighting and excellent scene setting audio visual images all play their part in the success of the production.
The use of cadence, the sing/chant used by the marines to instil spirit and teamwork, between the scenes was particularly impressive and played a huge role in setting the ambiance of the piece. The sustained standing ovation received from the audience was richly deserved for what is another triumph for the school.
My last words are reserved for the director and designer of this production, the inimitable Luke Holder. Westville Boys High School has an absolute gem in this staff member. Long may he produce work of this calibre. – Keith Millar