The Significant Other Festival
Reviewed – 17th April 2018
“ultimately it is the attempted scale of the performance that lets it down”
Over the last few years New Writing Nights have emerged and flourished across the London Fringe, with themed nights and unique ways of engaging with audiences allowing artists to take risks. The Significant Other Festival from The Pensive Federation proposes something unique: ten different plays set in one location, set over the course of an evening and merged into one single piece. All have been collected and created over the course of just ten days.
We are back in 1988 within the fictional factory of Reseal 9. Jack is leaving the company and it is the day of his retirement party. Beforehand, we jump between the stories of various employees, from office staff through to box sealers. The time of a major figure leaving in any group can be a catalyst for change, and it provides an opportunity for many to evaluate their relationships and anxieties. These scenes have been created by ten writers, interwoven by a group of employees that help the piece to flow, referring outside events and carrying us through. The level of ambition in achieving this is to be admired, but ultimately it is the attempted scale of the performance that lets it down.
The scenes themselves form somewhat of a mixed bag. A shame in terms of an audience’s point of view is the lack of variation and repetition of themes. Couple after couple form ‘Will they, won’t they?’ partnerships, and by the fifth scene using this pattern it drains. If there was a clearer separation, it would be fairer to distance scenes, but the structure forces to judge the performance as one whole. It also feels unsatisfying as no play or storyline feels complete, instead feeling bitty despite some nice writing from Chantelle Dusette and Emma Bentley in their various sections.
The slightly overlong production from Pensive Federation Artistic Director Neil J. Byden operates in broad strokes, and is hugely impressive in its smoothness, feeling confident in the world it chooses to explore. This unity can lead to a lack of variation, but lip sync and detailed bright spots keep us moving forward. They are aided by a cast who are far too many to even try and review in detail. They play their parts with uniform clarity, though as a general point can feel rather stock in parts, but this does allow for a distinction between them so is understandable.
This Significant Other Festival is a difficult show to review due to the nature of its creation and the structure of its performance. On the one hand an exploration of a single day in the life of many within a factory, put together in under two weeks is simply incredible. But while acknowledging that you wish for more. More fire in its politics, more courage in its variations and more exploration of depth rather than pushing for scale. As a New Writing Night it is a beautiful idea, and you look forward to the day in which it is mastered.
Reviewed by Callum McCartney
The Significant Other Festival