Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Secret of Cassandra

If there’s one complaint I have about this release it’s the start… Not the strange, actually oddly effective introduction scene with Bernice stranded helpless on a desert island, but the light throwaway backstory that explains how she got there. Holiday cruising on a planet torn apart by bloody war? After her previous experiences in similar situations, really? Either she didn’t do any homework at all and walked into it completely blind or she really, really was drunk. It’s a small complaint, with no significant baring on the actual content of the play, but as a reason for Bernice being where she is I find it annoyingly out of character.
Whilst we’re discussing the start also of annoyance is the ‘Bondesque’ theme song, which makes an unwelcome return from Dragon’s Wrath. It made sense for that story, it was misplaced but at least you could see the ambition. Here its overly bombastic, clichéd, unashamedly crass tone is really, really off-putting if not slightly inappropriate.

The play itself is fairly straightforward, if a little contrived. Lennox Greaves is instantly likeable as the disenchanted Captain Colley, although why he suddenly places an inordinate amount of trust in Bernice is a mystery. A polar opposite is General Brennan, who spends much of the play ranting and raving about ‘not trusting’ Bernice before finally opening up at the end. We get characters at both ends of the spectrum in a rather simple, and obvious, clash of personalities, but in the confined story it works.

Most of the drama in the story revolves around the fragile trust between these characters. Between the opening scene and the point when answers start to arrive most of the story is driven by Bernice, Captain Colley and the General circling each other suspiciously and muttering about how their all wasting each other’s time. Boring…

Fortunately, after this triangle is broken by the release of the General’s mysterious prisoner, answers start to arrive quickly. It’s a tense, emotionally charged situation with nice symmetry to its ending.

All in all the Secret of Cassandra poses as a diverting, simple adventure for ‘new’ Bernice to sink her teeth into. It’s never going to be a big hitter but it doesn’t fall at any particular hurdles either. What I’m not sure about is what she was doing there in the first place… Holiday cruising? Really?

6 / 10

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