There have been a growing number of new writing nights in London, but The Scene at the Tabard Theatre has the distinction of running for a week, with a different line-up of plays each night. The following summary pertains to the evening I attended…
Opening the evening, The Robbing Class by Michelle Payne takes place a few years ago when David Cameron was Prime Minister. Addressing the audience defiantly, Isabella McGough is Rosie, a habitual burglar in ‘Broken Britain’. Giving a human face to a social malady, Rosie describes without feigned remorse or apology why ‘she does what she does’. As the gap widens between the rich and the poor during Cameron’s tenure, Rosie has no compunction about doing what she must to survive. Her sister Lucy (Eleanor Hurrell) is ‘unable’ to accompany her anymore, so she enlists Bianca (Imogen Ware) – a girl from eastern Europe – to assist her. The reason for Lucy’s ‘sabbatical’ however, marks the difference between herself and her sister. A ‘seasoned’ burglar herself, Lucy has reached ‘saturation point’ – meaning she can’t enter people’s homes without feeling feeling empathy for the families she’s burgling… Blending humour with astute commentary and a distinct voice, The Robbing Class deserves repeat viewing.
From the recent past to the near-future, Admiring Ebony by Mauricia Lewis examines future taboos. As a result of Brexit Britain, people stay within groups that correspond with the colour of their skin. In the case of Mauricia’s character, her favourite rooftop to visit is being observed – by someone who doesn’t have ‘caramel skin’. Is she in fact the object of someone’s obsession, much as Shakespeare had his ‘Dark Lady’…?
Tonally similar to Joe Orton’s Loot, Mites by James P Mannion oscillates between innuendo and understated delivery. Wendy Fisher plays a divorcée who receives a visit from a pest controller (played by Hassan Govia). Supposedly, a phone call was made to book this appointment, but the premises doesn’t have a phone… The chemistry between the actors gives the play its joie de vivre and Fisher in particular is on fine form.
Written by Stephanie Silver and Emelia Marshall Lovesey, Walk Of Shame takes the familiar expression and examines the ‘baggage’ that goes with it. Following a ‘he said/she said’ format, we meet two very different people, who are played by Calum Speed and Stephanie Silver. Speed’s character has recently nursed his dying mother and following her death, has thrown himself into sales job – partly so he’s not alone with his thoughts and partly to ‘live life to the fullest’. Nights out after work are a regular occurence and there are plenty of women at the bars where he can ‘make his acquaintance’.
Following a disagreement with her boyfriend Billy, ‘She’ heads into town to get “royally f***ed” – however you want to interpret that… Boy meets girl, ‘He’ and ‘She’ hit it off and they go back to his place. However, while ‘He’ is fixing some more drinks, ‘She’ checks her phone and notices loads of messages from her boyfriend. She surmises Billy does love her and decides she should now leave. However, it’s 4am and she’s already said she’ll sleep with her guest for the evening… As in all the best writing, the characters here are complex, and have clear reasons for the things they say and do in any given moment. ‘The devil is the detail’ and in the play’s minutiae, we see the seeds of future influences and choices…
Shifting the focus to families and football, Leyton Story by Rob Young is in some ways an ode to east London. David Archer plays Alan – a young man whose whole life has been compared to his parents and other siblings. While Alan is thoughtful and worries about things, his brother John has slept with half of Walthamstow and not considerate by nature. John’s also responsible for why their sister has lifelong physical injuries. It is, however, as a football agent that Alan becomes an important person in his own right and finds his place in the world… The time spent talking about family and the ‘O’s (Leyton Orient Football Club) really grounds us in his world and his outlook on human nature. Far from being solely about football, the play’s focus is firmly set on identity, one’s sexuality and the contradictions we all have.
Closing the evening, And You Are? by Victoria Taylor Roberts takes a light-hearted look at some sci-fi icons. Inspired by the Stormtroopers conversation in Kevin Smith’s Clerks, we meet ‘Him’ (Piers Garnham) and ‘Her’ (Rebecca Ward) who stop for a chat while on duty. Talking about their interests and what they would like to do, they have a very ‘British’ way of looking at things, which makes their conversation very funny – if not surreal.
© Michael Davis 2018
The Scene runs at the Tabard Theatre until 4th August. (7.30pm)
Directors of evening’s plays:
The Robbing Class – Paula Benson
Admiring Ebony – Roman Berry
Mites – Lizzie Fitzpatrick
Walk Of Shame – Paula Benson
Leyton Story – Jane Gull
And You Are? – Gwenan Bain