Series of Short Plays, Theatre N16 – Review

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Directors: L-R – Imogen Beech, Kerry Fitzgerald, Evy Barry and Sara Reimers

Returning once again with a crop new, short plays, Glass Half Full Theatre’s most recent selection are written by, and starring (mostly) women. Directed by Sara Reimers, Kerry Fitzgerald, Evy Barry, Imogen Beech and Ruth Rundle, the evening could truly be said to be about female-led theatre. Also, just to make things ‘interesting’, the directors and cast only have 12 hours to rehearse the plays…

The evening opens with Definitely Maybe by Alexandria MacLeod. Playing a pair of teenagers, Ben Victor and Emma James are attempting their first kiss and potentially taking things much further. However, much like Caitlin and Colin in John Fitzpatrick’s Reared, the teenagers have different reason for wanting to try sex – ‘He’s pretty certain that he’s gay, but wants ‘confirmation’, while ‘She’ just wants somebody to lose her virginity to.

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Writers: Clockwise – Gemma Bright-Thomas, Laura Hall, Alexandria Macleod, Vicky Connerty and Jennifer Harraghy

However, ‘He’ seems particularly agitated that this mother might find out he’s gay, which ‘She’ finds strange, because pretty much everybody knows about his sexuality. However, his reason is understandable, as he recently discovered that his father isn’t dead as he’s been told, but alive, gay and living in Hastings with his partner. Having both ‘father and son’ be gay may be the last straw for his mother. While the play is very much a coming of age tale with the awkwardness of initiating sex and ‘90s pop culture (Oasis lyrics versus Take That) highlighted, the way the characters relate to each other and the way plot twists is worthy of Pedro Almodóvar.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, one of the important events of last year was the #MeToo movement. While sexual harassment and assault affects all walks of life, for those in the entertainment business decades ago, there was no recourse for women to pursue about such incidents. Voicing such accusations in a male-centric business could end one’s career… In Camille by Gemma Bright-Thomas, Camille Michaels (Meg Depla Lake) – an actress in her 60s – is at a theatre, soaking up the atmosphere as she prepares for her swan song performance. Noah (Matt Lim) – a young actor who frequents the building – inadvertently walks in Camille while she’s having a private moment. The abrupt manner of this occurrence triggers memories from back in the day when Camille was sought after and Lawrence (Matthias Swann) was the most powerful male actor.

The meta-joke/mystery of the play is what happened to Camille Michaels the past 40 years, as the most common assumption is that she has died. Of course, Camille’s ‘disappearance’ was linked with Lawrence and she paid the price when the industry closed ranks on her. But there’s nothing to stop her speaking out now…

DbdH5fkXcAAlFWjCut from the same cloth as Tatty Hennessy’s A Hundred Words For Snow, Vicky Connerty’s The Snow Angel of Antarctica sees Elicia Murphy travelling across the world for a year, ‘ticking off’ a bucket list. However, the ‘list’ isn’t her own, but belongs to a family member, played by Holly Boyden. While Murphy’s character wants to add extra destinations to the itinerary, Boyden’s character reminds her that the Antarctic is where she HAS to scatter the ashes. It’s there that she needs to ‘say goodbye’… Playing the ‘straight’ and ‘witty’ characters respectively, Murphy and Boyden have great chemistry together.

Single Full Screw by Jennifer Harraghy sees three female soldiers out on training manoeuvres. Evangeline Beaven’s character suffers from somnambulism (sleepwalking) which wakes up Victoria Lewis and Maria Rillstone. It is, however, when Beaven starts to being noisy that they throw caution to the wind and wake her. While the rest of the play involves a card game and a possible recce for some melons, the real point of the play is their respective attitudes towards their vocation and how they cope with ‘disagreeing’ with each other. Of course the reason for the sleepwalking is never disclosed and seeing as it reminded me of Lady Macbeth, it poses the question of whether it’s the result of guilt over the spilling of blood…

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Theatre N16/STYX

Taking a different approach to challenging the patriarchy, Rage by Laura Hall sees Kathryn Hopkinson and Amiee Cassettari as students on a night out. Then Shona Graham’s character walks into the pub with her arm in a sling, a result of a deliberate collision… This leads to conversation about when walking down the street, how some men don’t step aside but ‘plough on through’. The students realise, more often than not, that they move out of the way for men too. The preamble about students wanting to try nice places to frequent, but ultimately staying where there’s cheap booze is a nice touch and ideas put forward about ‘ownership’ of public space give pause for thought.

Most people love their mothers, even if at times they don’t agree on everything. In Mum by Stephanie Silver, Evangeline Beaven’s character has locked herself in the toilet so he can have a moment to herself while her ‘twin’ waits impatiently outside. The reason for the ‘solo’ time is that Beaven’s about to give a speech about her mother – what she means to her and how her mother raised the children by herself. Absence of any sort is lamentable and as Beaven’s character thinks about her last words to her mother – words that delberately meant to hurt her – ‘Beaven’ has a mountain of regret on her shoulders… For most writers, plays that are especially important to them and/or emotionally invested in are self-evident, and this is certainly the case in Silver’s Mum and How To Save A Life, which closes the evening.

Cancer as a disease is no respecter of persons in terms of age, sex or background. It does, however, manifest disproportionately in so many ways in women – ‘perversely’ often in the parts of the body to do with the creation and nurturing of the young. Showing an excerpt of her imminent full-length play, Silver’s How To Save A Life looks at how on young woman deals with the most devastaing of news.

Playing the lead role, Heather Howard’s character is in a happy relationship with her boyfriend (Tom McNulty). We also see her spend time with her best friend Maria (Katerina Robinson) who she’s known since university. The play takes its time unveiling details about Howard’s character’s life, but apart from being replete with amusing anecdotes, they show succinctly how much of an ‘everyman’ she is and how what happens to her could happen to anyone. The ‘abnormal’ smell from her ‘lady garden’ is at first something that one would expect to hear about on TV’s Embarrassing Bodies. However, routine tests bring clarity and one has to come to terms with the prospect of cervical cancer…

The excerpt for How To Save A Life was particularly well-received by the audience and Silver has once again shown her ‘knack’ for delivering an authentic feminine perspective on issues that are seldom talked about.

© Michael Davis 2018

Series of Short Plays ran at Theatre N16/STYX on 30th and 31st May.

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