Posts Tagged ‘Etcetera Theatre’

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Notes from Underground at the Etcetera in Camden

Wednesday, 14 December, 2011

13 – 18 December, 9.30pm

A sick man in St Petersburg

A man sits in the middle of the stage tapping away at an old typewriter, to the sound of a constant background howl. He is surrounded by sheets of paper, many blank, others of which must be his own rejected attempts at writing something meaningful.

He begins his story having convinced himself that he is his own proper subject, telling us what it is as he goes, but he is gradually joined by others from the audience who criticise, contradict, question and insult him. Sometimes they are characters in the story – a haughty militiaman, his servant – at other moments, they are facets of his own, self-confessedly repellent character.

This is Notes from Underground, adapted from the original (1864) novel by Fyodor Dostoeyevsky by Max Gill, and performed with some gusto and directed with a lot of imagination by Jessica Edwards, who provides important focus and changes of pace, with a minimal set and props.

Given that the original novel is often described as the first existential fiction, any adaptation is going to require some concentration from the audience, and if this production seems episodic and never easy to follow, it is largely because the original flips and turns through so many ideas and subjects that its form is designed to provide flashes of illumination against the darkest of canvases, rather than a continuous line of development.

Peter Clements as the Man (he is never named) has a tough task on hand, since his is not only the central character, but he is a hero such as was hardly ever imagined in the 1860’s. A combination of dark vanity, pathos and pride, to which we might add a streak of impetuous cruelty, Clements manages to portray this morally collapsed disaster of a man with some wit. The Man is underground in many senses, already dead to ideas like faith and optimism, struggling with the idea of himself, lost and cast out in a meaninglessly cruel world of accident and torture.

In the second half of the production, (this version plays to about an hour and twenty minutes) the action revolves around his relationship with the young prostitute Liza (Paloma Oakenfold) who he at first courts, then rapes and then rejects. Movement director Fionn Cox-Davies has provided some physical drama here which freezes moments as though in film. This may not be totally convincing but it is imaginative and powerful at its best, helping to coalesce unpleasant truths.

In the end, the play turns back upon itself. The Man, underground, still vainly strugging to explain to himself the nature of existence, not knowing whether he is in heaven or hell.

This complex drama is not perfect, but it does have something about it which is compelling. At the final curtain, it’s ideas are not easily ignored, which is the trademark of a truly powerful production.

Cast: Peter Clements – the Man; Sam Freeman – Chesnock; Oliver Gatten – Markov; Damien Hasson – Petrushka; Martin McCreadie – Kapusta; Paloma Oakenfold – Liza

Director – Jessica Edwards; Movement – Fionn Cox-Davies; Lighting – Edward Horner; Sound – Jon McLeod; Producer – Bryony Hope; Associate Artist – Joel Phillimore; Marketing – Josh Lowe; Production – FlippingtheBird

www.flippingthebird.co.uk

(c) michael spring
Reviewed 13 December 2011
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Camden Fringe 1 – 28 August 2011, by Michelle Flower

Friday, 24 June, 2011

Michelle Flower (l), Zena Barrie (r) and Zena's daughter Meredith

Another year another piece for Fringe Report!

2011 marks the 6th year that we have run the Camden Fringe, a 4 week extravaganza of theatre, comedy, spoken work, dance, musicals and genre-defying performances that takes place during August.  It all happens in, you’ve guessed it, the borough of Camden where we are fortunate to have many great performance venues.

This year the festival takes place from the 1st – 28th of August across a bumper number of venues.

The idea for the Camden Fringe came together because of two things. My business partner Zena Barrie and I had been producing shows in Edinburgh for a few years and it seemed harder and harder to make any money up there with the increase in big venues hosting big name acts. At the same time we’d started to run the Etcetera Theatre in Camden and had struggled to fill the theatre during August because of the perception that “everyone is in Edinburgh” during the summer.

It made sense for us to stop spending money on venues and accommodation in Edinburgh every August when we had both those things in already in London. In 2006 we decided to market a season at the Etcetera as a Fringe Festival. It worked and we have developed the idea from there.

Since we started a number of people have said to us “I always thought there should be an alternative to Edinburgh”, but no one else had tried it. Since we proved it works we’ve had a few imitators in other areas of London, so it must have been a good idea.

Things have expanded each year with more venues and more performances – we started with 1 venue with 22 acts promoted with a A5 flyer and five years later in 2010 we had a 56 page brochure listing over 600 performances in 8 venues.

This year has seen a lot of changes in the way the Camden Fringe is run. Organising and running the Fringe is a lot of work and last summer we realised that something had to give. I have my hands full with managing the Etcetera Theatre full time and Zena was expecting, so was going to have her hands full of baby in 2011; so our previous way of working – overseeing the programming of all the venues and running and staffing a number of them – was no longer viable.

In the autumn of last year we came up with a new plan to spread the work load by having the venues programme themselves. Essentially, we decided to become a bit more like the Edinburgh Fringe, with the Camden Fringe being an umbrella organization. As well as making the management easier for us, we hoped that this would open out opportunities for performers and venues alike. There would be a closer relationship between the venue and performers and the scheduling would be less simplistic. Longer and more complicated performances will be more easily accommodated into the and companies would also have the option to find their own unusual or site specific venues and be part of the festival.

This has turned out well – we’ve got shows happening at 18 venues this year. These include a car park and an actual park, as well as the more conventional addition of the RADA studio spaces. Somehow someone has even managed to get the previous reluctant Theatro Technis involved in this year’s Fringe, something we’d always failed to do previously.

Of course, if you change anything there will be criticism and the Camden Fringe is no different.

We kept the process of applying the same for performers – so they still all came through our website before being sent on to the selected venues – but this didn’t stop some panic (before applications opened) that it would all be much more complicated. We try to keep the application process simple – without asking for scripts and a lot of supporting documentation – to keep the festival open to all and appealing to newcomers.

With each venue out for itself it meant there was no-one to make sure there was a space for everyone and that acts were sent to the appropriate space. This resulted in some shows being made a few different offers and others not getting any, although we’ve done our best to help everyone. This is a shame because we’ve always prided ourselves on trying to fit all applicants in, but whether competitive aspect has a negative end result is another thing. The festival being slightly less of a free for all and having a whiff of a “curation” probably has benefits for punters.

The other big change from previous years is that we’ve no longer got a set ticket price. For the first 5 years of the Camden Fringe all tickets were £7.50. This year, in response to feedback from venues, punters and performers, ticket prices are determined by each show and concessionary tickets are available for some. Most tickets are still around the £7.50 mark. A handful, mostly stands-up shows, are £5 and some of the longer and more elaborate shows are charging up to £13. Whilst this makes life a bit more difficult for us in terms of admin, I think it’s a good thing for the festival as a whole.

The Camden Fringe now has more appeal to shows with larger casts and higher production values who have more chance to make money on ticket sales and it’s a more relaxed experience for new companies or acts who don’t have to charge a lot more than they usually would for tickets. Zena and I, having seen more shows at the Camden Fringe than anyone over the years, know very well that some shows are worth more than others!

In terms of shows we’ve got a great selection this year – the festival is as weird and wonderful as ever. Upstairs at the Gatehouse will be hosting some opera and classic revivals up in Highgate, including John Gay’s 18th century play The Beggar’s Opera and Sheridan’s The Rivals. At the Bloomsbury Theatre Studio the fabulous brainy cabaret show Bright Club will be doing a weekly performance. Between those two venues at either end of the borough we have the Pirate Castle right by the Regent’s Canal hosting some London specific shows, which include Noel Coward’s Peace in Our Time and new devised piece TaniwhaThames about a monster in the River. The Camden Head will be hosting a lot of comedy performances and one person shows – notable amongst these is Poet Richard Tyrone Jones’ Richard Tyrone Jones has a Big Heart. The intimate Sheephaven Bay hosts some small scale shows, whilst Camden People’s Theatre has some great physical pieces and one person performances. The Etcetera Theatre is, in all ways, the daddy of Camden Fringe venues with 52 different productions taking place over 4 weeks this year.

It’s going to be a busy summer!

(c) Michelle Flower, 24 June 2011

The Camden Fringe runs from the 1st – 28th of August 2011
Further information and the full programme can be found on
www.camdenfringe.org

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Coming soon to the Etcetera, Camden

Tuesday, 2 November, 2010

In November and December

Pathological, by Freddy Syborn, from 10 to 14 Nov 2010. Paul is a massive liar. He can’t get close to women…He works in a morgue, loves Lethal Weapon, hates TV, can’t sing, can’t dance and frequently gets on the wrong side of sensitive bouncers. He also can’t really act.

The Universal returns to the Etcetera Theatre this winter

The Universal , by Kate Webster, presented by My Own Private Submarine, from 17 to 20 Nov 2010. For the open-minded and broken-hearted, a play about love, quantum theory and what makes the world go round.

The Wolfman Cometh, from 7 to 12 Dec 2010. Work ain’t fun when you’re the PA to an evil overlord. Wolfman (30, part wolf) just wants an afternoon off to go dragon-watching and let out the waistband on his pantaloons. Join us for a one hour comedy quest (with live ocarina music) through a fantasy landscape, as one man (part wolf) goes way outside his job description, does a lot of one-armed press ups and tries to save the world.

The Box Set, Fourplay Theatre present 2 adult comedies from Carla Griffiths Box Set series: The Box & The Italian Assassin, from 14 to 19 Dec 2010. The Box: A comedy surrounding two flatmates with secretive pasts and the paranoia they experience over the delivery of a mystery box. The Italian Assassin: What do you do when an assassin comes for you?

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Waiting for Wonderland

Friday, 27 August, 2010

Camden Fringe – Etcetera Theatre, 20th August 2010 6pm (45 mins)

Left to Right: Callum Patrick Hughes (Chris), David Mowbray (Nick)

On one of the warmer August evenings of the Camden fringe, the small tightly packed Etcetera Theatre became the setting for ”Waiting for Wonderland”. The title of this new, original two-handed play, written by Rose Bruford graduate Richard J Loftus, cut across the wide range of social groups represented in the full capacity house.

The show in a black box setting opened with a pre-set of the two characters on two metal chairs. Callum Patrick Hughes as Chris and David Mowbray as Nick, portrayed two twenty-something gay men.

The characters were dressed in everyday wear; jeans, t-shirts and simple shirts, neither dull or flamboyant and not catering to the sterotype. The fast paced show started with a slight first night technical stutter, but was soon speeding along the information highways. The sound level was good, as was the delivery, making the content clear and audible. A simple lighting rig, used to add a time dimension to the scenes, gave a warm glow to the stage enabling subtle nuances to be seen.

The action alternated between “Twitter” tweets with @Nick replying to @Chris’ postings, with a speed of excution only rivalled by the fibres used to transmit tweets; and the “Narration” (in this case the characters thoughts), which served to enlighten the language and hidden meanings with a good degree of subtle comedy, which often caused a flurry of laughter in response.

Director Hayley Richards, assisted by Disa Stefans, also Rose Bruford graduates, used a minimalist approach. A simple staging device of moving the proximiny of the chairs, positioning them according to the action and psychology behind the mood, kept this two handed show on its toes.

The strength of this show was that the script had been directed to allow interpretation, through expression and body language by the two very capable young undergraduate actors; They both gave believable performances, steering their throughts to highlight a mirad of emotions and at times evoke memories. The tension created in moments of the play was almost audible and served to communicate the online relationship.

Whilst this method of modern communication can be challenging for many, “Waiting for Wonderland” showed simply how it has embeded itself into our society to such an extent that flirting takes place just as if the object of your desires is there with you. It seemed to appeal to all, regardless of age and social type, giving an insight to this modern communication and one of its uses. The only fault was a rather ambigious and seemingly quick ending, which caused puzzlement to some, but maybe that’s what the writer intended –to make us wait for an answer?

A play for all generations and genders, a most enjoyable watch.

Cast: Callum Patrick Hughes as Chris; David Mowbray as Nick

Crew: Director – Hayley Richards; Assistant Director – Disa Stefans; Writer: Richard J Loftus (@rjloftus)

(c) Katherine-Lucy Bates 2010

Friday 20th August 2010

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The Sharp Sisters

Wednesday, 18 August, 2010

A Museum of Curious Revelations

Etcetera Theatre, 16th-18th August 2010 (1 hour)

The Sharp Sisters

The Sharp Sisters are Alice Parsloe and Lesley Cook. They are joined by Romy Tennant and together, they present us with many curious characters.

The evening begins with the unveiling (literally) of the lady, who (for reasons which are to become obvious) would never allow her betrothed to kiss anything more than her hand. She’s followed by Rippling Rhona, who, despite her small stature, can rip books apart. (Just be sure not to make her angry!)

So far, it’s all amusing, but fairly standard stuff, and since the only props on the stage are a couple of curtains strung across dress racks and some additional clothes, you wonder how the evening is going to move on. But then, very suddenly and quite stylishly too, we’re behind the scenes, and all is not well in the Museum.

Threatened by political correctness, will the Museum survive? Will the new and slightly more raunchy acts secure the future of the freak show under another name? Can Rippling Rhona get to university? And will the lady with the cleaning fetish manage to impose order on her world?

These – and others – are the stories that gradually unravel throughout this fast-paced show with its myriad of costume changes, some dance, a very funny flash of neo-puppetry and some clever tricks of stagecraft. The players have a lot of presence throughout and have to cope with the fact that often just a change of hat and accent marks one character out from another, but that too is done with panache. Each character manages to appear as fairly sharply delineated, which itself is a testimony to the collective performers.

This is a production which has clearly been worked over for some time. It is played with a lot of energy and, despite the small space and the limited time available for costume changes, it is very slick indeed.

As for the comedy, it more often consists of gentle smile stuff, rather than things to laugh out loud at, but its impossible not to feel some genuine affection for these characters and the players who bring them to life.

http://shambolic.weebly.com/

Cast: Lesley Cook – Ethel Sharp/Rhona/Deirdre; Alice Parsloe – Sybil Sharp/Domestic Goddess/Tessa/ Protestor; Romy Tennant – Wilma/Bernie/Bloody Mary

Crew: Artistic consultants – Clare Lindsay and Sarah Marks; Lighting – Heather Rose; Sound – Jayne Allen; Stage Manager – Kate Reaney

reviewed 17 August

(c) Michael Spring 2010

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The Fantastic Reality of Frederick Goodge

Wednesday, 11 August, 2010

Inside the eye of your mind

London – Etcetera Theatre – 5 – 11 August 2010 – 21.00 (1:10)

This is a one-man play or show (depending on your point of view), written and performed by Gerry Howell.

Gerry Howell is Frederick Goodge

Frederick Goodge is the character that Gerry Howell inhabits rather than performs, an ordinary man, although one with extraordinary dreams, and an extraordinary perspective on ‘reality’, whatever that might be.

Into his character’s ‘reality’, a lot of other people thrust themselves, sometimes as references, sometimes appearing on the stage to be ‘played’ in turn by Frederick Goodge in a mad imitation of drama.

It is in Orpington swimming baths that Frederick Goodge fleetingly gets to meet the girl of his dreams, but the course of true love does not run smoothly for him, as he becomes caught up in a fiction of his own making, as well as Croydon, home of Peter Sarstedt, whom he is determined to visit.

Let’s be fair. Frederick Goodge’s singing voice may not be up to much, but his search for the writer of sixties hit “Where do you go to, my lovely?” does lead him to trumpeter Penelope (whose name means ‘weaving’ or something) and to a jazz festival in Juan les Pins (which – eerily? – was mentioned in the Sarstedt song).

The twists and turns of this extraordinary story are too convoluted to describe here, even if I could remember precisely how Frederick becomes an employment agent or why he feels he has to break in to a very tall building (reminiscent of a vegetable) to rescue the lover of his fictional heroine from suicide.

It is, quite simply, that kind of show, performed with relish by Gerry Howell, whose inspiration comes miscellaneously from Albert Camus, TS Eliot and other literary greats. This show apparently, began as a novel. Now, it is a very entertaining hour of performance comedy.

Performer: Gerry Howell

Reviewed 10 August 2010

(c) Michael Spring

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Siren, by Peter Briffa

Wednesday, 11 August, 2010

Sex in the city

London – Etcetera Theatre – 10 -13  August 2010 – 19:30 (1:00)

This is a tale told backwards, and so it begins – rather than ends – in something darker than tears.

The plot is a simple one, of a young and beautiful prostitute (Paula Gilbert) and her long term client (Glenn Speers), and the development (or undoing) of their relationship. The plot, running backwards, does take a little time to grasp, and while it is quite momentous in its scope, the brief exchanges of conversation are really what matters. There’s nothing too insightful about these exchanges, but in their entirety they do have a peculiar resonance that stays with you long after the cast have taken their bows.

Paula Gilbert is the siren

Now that could just be down to prurient curiosity. The oldest profession, by its very nature has something mysterious about it. (How, for example, does it begin, especially for those who are quite clearly not ‘slags working Kings Cross’?)

This, and all those other questions you’ve always wanted to ask of prostitutes and their clients, are explored in Peter Briffa’s multi-scened drama.

The set is simple – bed, chair, window, a few other bits and pieces – but it’s stylishly done, and the lighting too, with the single spot highlighting the Venetian blind gave a point of focus where too often in small theatre spaces (where sets have to be changed quickly) this is overlooked.

We’re never really sure about anyone’s identity. The girl could be Trixie or Jennifer or Katherine; the man, John or Terry. What becomes clear is that the man’s son could be dating this girl (someone like him probably is) and while the publicity leaflet’s description of this drama – ‘searing’ – isn’t quite right, it does have a poignancy that stems from the ordinariness of the people concerned and which does take us a lot further than the frisson felt by the average Guardian reader picking up a copy of the News of the World on a Sunday.

Paula Gilbert looks every inch the part of the thousand-quid hooker. Glenn Speers was perhaps a little more hesitant, especially in those early scenes when the boundary between love and violence comes ever closer. But director Paul Blinkhorn moves everything on at a pretty good pace, in spite of the clothes that necessarily have to come on and off with some frequency.

In terms of the plotline, I thought Peter Briffa let the man off the hook a little towards the end, but nevertheless, the resonance remains.

Cast Credits: Girl – Paula Gilbert; Man – Glenn Speers

Company Credits: Writer – Peter Briffa. Director – Paul Blinkhorn. Sound and lighting – uncredited. Set design – Aaron J Dootson.

Reviewed 10 August 2010

(c) Michael Spring

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Death of the Unicorn

Friday, 6 August, 2010

Wet Concrete's Death of the Unicorn

Verdict: Creative voyage through imagination

London – Etcetera Theatre – 5 – 7 August 10 – 13:30 (1:00)

Edinburgh 10 – theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall, Venue 53 – 6-28 August 09 – Times vary (1:00)

Death of the Unicorn is a fantastic exploration of imagination throughout life.  Wet Concrete Theatre stylishly navigate imagination’s origins, the glory of creative freedom during childhood, growing up’s painful practicality and the frustrations of inspiration and identity in early adulthood.

At the outset, the stage is littered with creative possibilities: the eye catches cloths, musical instruments, storybooks and at least three bodies lie tangled centre stage.  Pads of paper and large colourful crayons await potential artists as they take their seats beyond the proscenium arch.  To one side, a blindfolded woman (Morag Sims) sits in a black shawl jangling a pot of paintbrushes.  She removes her blindfold and shawl to reveal faded patchwork dungarees and narrates in rich symbolic language as the pile of bodies rises to reveal her baby self (Stephanie Roberts), clad in similar patchwork, only bright and colourful.

Lydia Hourihan, Mimi Findlay and Paul Burgess are a visual treat as the perpetually shifting chorus.  Wearing a scrap bag of shades rather than colours, with black and white makeup smeared here and there, they are the sea one moment, a circus the next, providing literal backdrops, metaphorical states and sound effects, both realistic and atmospheric.  The company’s physicality is impressive and inspiring.  Both lead and narrator are supported and subsumed into movement by the chorus and there is an ingenious variety of performance delivery.

First sensory experiences are delivered with youthful colour and expressive physicality; childhood dreaming with shadow puppetry.  As our lead ages, the chorus provide voices – fleeting presences – and later characters as required.  In an early adult kitchen scene Lydia Hourihan and Mimi Findlay create work surfaces with their bodies and sound effects with their voices as Stephanie Roberts and Paul Burgess (in an amazing turn as our narrator’s literally minded partner) mime preparing food whilst delivering a moving argument scene.

As the title suggests, the unicorn is sadly mortal.  Early childhood dreaming is lost to the mediocrity and practicality of bourgeoning adulthood.  Deconstruction and analytical thought is given a scornful treatment by Stephanie Roberts’ script:  literally all adult guidance and intervention is depicted as restrictive, critical and unimaginative.  University, told with suitable verve and indulgence in drugs and self-analysis, offers more distractions, but education continues to restrict both thought and expectation.

The narrator, who spoke and played nostalgically with her childhood self, is frustrated with herself as a student and at points in her life story is angry and even refuses to participate.  Morag Sims delivers an admirably detailed performance but is most compelling when not narrating – such as watching the kitchen scene close to tears.  Her narration is engaging, but a self-satisfied tone creeps in, almost lecturing the audience at points.

Stephanie Roberts is a wonderfully expressive child, petulant teenager and arrogant student; her physicality shifting appropriately throughout.  Thomas Martin’s score is effective if sparingly used – chilling at top and tail and a wonderful addition to the incredible depiction of a magic mushroom trip.

Just as the narrator’s tone can sometimes seem inappropriate, the language tips at being over-flowery.  But the diction has been deliberately chosen and, along with the choreography, structured with care.  Death of the Unicorn is an inventive celebration of imagination, a damnation of any who attempt to contain it, and the company rise to meet their own high standards.

Cast Credits: (alpha order):  Paul Burgess,  Mimi Findlay,  Lydia Hourihan,  Stephanie Roberts,  Morag Sims

Company Credits:  Devised by the Company.  Writer / Director – Stephanie Roberts.  Composer – Thomas Martin.  Lighting Designer – Paul Burgess.  Stage Manager – Luke Harris.  Stage Manager –  Joe Capes.  Company – Wet Concrete Theatre. Website – www.wetconcetetheatre.com

(c) Ben Neale

Reviewed Thursday, 05 August 2010 / Etcetera Theatre, London UK

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It Is Rocket Science

Thursday, 5 August, 2010

Verdict: Onward to Mars

London – Etcetera Theatre – 3 August 2010 – 21.00 (1:00)

Helen Keen with some of her props

Helen Keen is an engaging character, a self-deprecating thirty-something who lives in a converted garage in Ruislip, she’s not quite living the 21st Century, city bachelorette lifestyle that she might have imagined for herself. Nothing too dramatically different there perhaps, but her show, called It Is Rocket Science allows her to talk – very entertainingly – about herself and her background, as well as about her fascination with space and space exploration.

It has to be done with a certain style of course, and this tour of the universe takes place with a number of charming, but not too polished props that allow her to demonstrate the quirkiness of this area of scientific endeavour.

Perhaps every area of science has its weirdnesses, but the fact that America finally put a man on the moon owing largely to an uneasy collaboration between a Nazi and a satanist is just one of the facts that Helen Keen brings into the open.

There are a lot of other such coincidences and accidents of fate along the way.

For this show to succeed, it needs some audience participation and Helen Keen certainly got a lot of it (perhaps a little too much?), the audience fully engaging with a need for someone to adopt the character of Patrick Moore (and to read nuggets of wisdom from one of his books on space), as well as to take on new characters and nationalities for their part in this light-hearted evening.

One of the key props is a tinfoil-covered rocket shape, which includes a screen through which Miriam (no second name given) projects some simple but wonderful shadow-shapes in the best tradition of children’s television or perhaps the booth at the village fete. It is all very charming and gently funny.

There’s also a lot about the pioneers who first envisaged, then calculated, then made a reality of space travel. She brings their stories to life in a fusion of stand-up comedy and light-hearted descriptions of the characters and accidents that surround man’s attempt to break free from the planet.

Cast Credits: Performer – Helen Keen; Shadow puppets – Miriam

Reviewed 3 August 2010

(c) Michael Spring

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The Twenty-Minute Policy

Thursday, 5 August, 2010

Verdict: Divergent views

London – Etcetera Theatre – 3 August 2010 – 19:30 (1:00)

There are three tables and three chairs. It’s reminiscent of the exam room at school, but it’s not. This play is set in a nameless institution where two women, deprived of liberty, are awaiting the arrival of their visitors.

Tess and Lisa

Strangers meet in The Twenty Minute Policy

World-weary Tess (Charlotte Sutherland) sits at an adjacent table to the passive, slightly bovine Lisa (Gigi Burdorf). Tess is as taut as piano strings, playing a frenetic spoilt brat (her visitor, her father is never late, she tells us) with a gift for irony. Lisa who wants nothing more than to have a chat and get on with people,  is awaiting the arrival of her sister.

The unseen presence throughout the play however, is ‘The Book’. The Book contains the rules of the institution, which include (of course), the twenty-minute policy that gives the play its title. Something though, seems to have gone wrong, The Book and its rules and regulations seem not to be working. And so Tess (who is determined to push the rules to the limit) and Lisa (whose existence almost depends on the rules) each try to undermine each other’s comfort zone.

There are some sharp lines and clever writing here, and the thing is played fast, Tess often clipping over Lisa’s responses. There’s a lot of wit on show too, but it often hovers around the sitcom level, rather than really probing deeper.

Even when the hapless Andrew (David Swain) arrives, an employee of the institution looking for somewhere quiet to eat his lunch, things don’t get too much clearer. The rules aren’t quite rules, it seems. It’s almost as though writer Trent Burton is telling us that nothing ever does get resolved, no prejudices can quite be undermined by argument. We believe what we want to believe.

Having said all that, this was an enjoyable production, marked by some concentrated performances from the chief protagonists and directed with some wit by Melinda Burton. David Swain too, wrings every ounce of presence out of his diffident and put-upon character. Tiffany Hudson, responsible for sound and lighting, will have had a busy night – every so often mysterious doors clang shut somewhere and a choir sings. More mystery, never quite resolved.

Reason and belief, rules and logic are the subjects of this play, which often flirts with territory that might well have yielded more momentous and thought-provoking conclusions. Instead, it opts for comedy, rather than anything darker, despite the potential of some well-drawn characters.

Cast Credits: Lisa – Gigi Burdorf; Tess – Charlotte Sutherland; Andrew – David Swain

Company Credits: Writer/producer – Trent Burton. Director – Melinda Burton. Sound and lighting – Tiffany Hudson.

Reviewed 3 August 2010

(c) Michael Spring