London Theatre Writing Award ShowcaseThursday, 26 August, 2010
London Festival Fringe – New Diorama Theatre – 23 August – 19:30 (2:30)
The London Playwrights’ Collective, in association with Scene Pool, offered a truly spectacular evening at the showcase for the finalists in the London Theatre Writing Award. Rather than productions, the evening featured directed readings of the top three finalists, which was delightfully minimalist, focusing all attention on the text as read. Unfortunately, the Fringe Report was unable to make the first reading of the evening, Aurora by Louise Monaghan, but did attend the final two, Drawing the Curtains by Benedict Fogarty and Snap.Catch.Slam by Emma Jowett.
In Drawing the Curtains, Benedict Fogarty investigated the impact of the events leading to Fiona Pilkington’s murder of her disabled daughter and subsequent suicide, on the son she left behind. Told through the eyes of Tony (Paul Thomas), the story unfolded in a stream of conscious manner, jumping between memories. Tony oscillated between tortured saint and petulant teen in his reactions and care for his disabled sister, Vickie (read with superb warmth and intelligence by Poppy Meadows), resenting the disability’s complete control over their lives. Paul Thomas’ reading incorporated these warring emotions admirably well, and the eternal frustration and regret at the end of the play was palpable. Unfortunately, the play faltered in its portrayal of the mother, who’s lines were almost entirely expository and read in monotone by Hazel Bawden. The mother became a one-dimensional plot device for Tony’s development, rather than a victim and the perpetrator of the horrendous act. On the whole, the script presented a decently crafted melodrama but took little risk with language or format and it was difficult to see how this play would benefit from staging, possibly better suited for radio.
Emma Jowett’s Snap.Catch.Slam, a series of three short plays, also based its subjects in true events, but to a much more innovative end. Snap delved into the moment a teacher snaps into violence, when faced with an uncontrollable student. Catch, on the other hand, examined the disruption caused by the decision to save a life, catching a baby from a burning window. Finally, Slam revolved around the impact on a woman’s life from a moment of domestic violence. The readers in each play were outstanding, and deserve to be lauded in much more detail than possible here, as does Antonio Ferraro’s direction. Emma Jowett’s command of language, however, was the true star of the evening. The plays commenced with a short and staccato dictionary definition of the title, neatly encapsulating the theme and subject in a moment. Each play also sprang to life through clever employment of all five senses; Miss Taylor’s high heels clicking against the classroom floor and the slow spread of red blood in Snap, the scorching mug of coffee and acrid smell of the fire in Catch, and the familiar sounds of a child countered with the appearance of an abusive ex-husband in Slam. Each play felt complete, and each character displayed a distinct personality and rhythm of speech, yet similar language and imagery coursed through all.
Cast Credits: (Drawing the Curtains) Jean Apps – The Grandmother/Dot Cosgrove/Mrs Gaygan, Hazel Bawden – The Mother/Patricia Terry, Poppy Meadows – Vickie Simpson, Paul Thomas – Tony Simpson, Peter Wilkinson – Tony’s Friend/Stevie Gaygan/A Police Officer, Clive Woodward – Mr. Gaygan/SEN Teacher/Mr Guest/The Father/Mr. Simpson. (Snap) Olivia Chappell – Miss Taylor. (Catch) Rob Carter – Stu, Verity Hewlett – Mother, Paul Thomas – Aron. (Slam) Carol Been – Karen, Verity Hewlett – Natalie & Lucy.
Company Credits: (Drawing the Curtains) Writer – Benedict Fogarty, Director – Lavinia Hollands, (Snap. Catch. Slam) Writer – Emma Jowett, Director – Antonio Ferrara. For the Theatre Writing Showcase: Compère – Ola Animashawun, Judges – Ola Animashawun, Skye Crawford, Ria Perry. For the London Playwrights’ Collective: Managing Director – Maude Laflamme, Readers – Brian Astbury, Darren Batten, Henry Bell, Trudi Boatwright, David Bottomley, Daniel Brennan, Ben Ellis, Steve Harper, Kerry Irvine, Sharon Kanolik, Tanith Lindon, Jennifer Lunn, Alix Thorpe, Jeremy Woodhouse.
(c) Molly Doyle 2010
Reviewed Monday, 23 August 2010