“These are insightful accounts into current struggles in our society”
Described as ‘…a show that explores the ebb and flow at the very core of being human’, ‘Stream: Two New Plays’ is a promising example of a double bill, complementing through genre and mood rather than tenuously linked by its topic. The fresh writing and innovative theatrical ideas make for two interesting works from a new group of creatives and actors in collaboration with Eve and Sea Productions and Stumble Theatre Company.
In ‘Salmon’, written and directed by Constance Eldon McCaig and Eva Lily, we watch Angus spiral to breaking point after the death of his dog, opening our eyes to the lack of purpose felt by so many young people, their inability to admit or express this sense of futility and the abuse of drugs to escape the emptiness. Devoid of prospects in a small town in Scotland, Angus fixates on the salmon’s innate objective in life. The script is well-crafted, combining poetic fragments and shared lines with the main narrative. Josh Smith, as Angus, gives a committed and moving performance as he moves from reality to delirium. Sometimes lacking confidence in the physical theatre of the play’s more surreal scenes and a slickness in the interlinking dialogue, the rest of the cast play his parents, girlfriend and social support who attempt to understand and offer help. The sound and lighting coordinate effectively to create the changes in Angus’s state of mind, and the poetry and relevant music enhance the atmosphere, but the constant soundscape detracts from the strength of the characters on stage, occasionally to the point of rendering them inaudible.
In contrast to the ‘son et lumière’ of the first play, ‘Mom Bob’ is a gentle reflection on the discovery of deep maternal feelings embedded in women, against the odds. Writer, Jane Hancock, plays Claire, recently reconnected with the daughter she gave up for adoption as a teenager. As she sits by a duck pond in Central Park, we learn the story behind her early pregnancy, her decision to give up her daughter and her liberation from domestic abuse. The writing is sensitive and we become engaged with Claire’s journey through life and struggle to come to terms with strong attachments for a child she didn’t raise. Alex Woolley’s direction makes good use of movement to break up the monologue but could vary the pace to internalise Claire’s train of thought and build up a deeper picture. The performance comes across as a linear interpretation of a text rather than from a character with the complexity and underlying fragility of someone marked by their ordeal.
These are insightful accounts into current struggles in our society and on a personal level and the messages are artfully and originally conveyed. Each could take a leaf out of the other’s book – the simplicity of the set in ‘Mom Bob’ and the visceral risk-taking of ‘Salmon’ – to intensify the drama through the acting, yet it is encouraging to see such carefully structured and thoughtfully produced theatre by talented newcomers.
“A less convincing second half dampens the impact of Donald’s piece, but remains fun nonetheless”
This enjoyable – if not a little odd – triple bill of shows at the Drayton Arms groups together three intriguing and original shows connected by the omnipresent spectre of the past, and how it shapes our understanding of our own personal present.
Jack Donald’s startling and poetic ‘A Sticky Season’ starts off the evening on a high that the other shows never quite reach. A lyrical, ‘Beat’-inspired monologue delivered by Donald himself, the story follows the musings of our narrator wandering through a forest in the summer of 2018. His journey takes him to Eighties-era San Francisco, where he watches Gaetan Dugas turn from club loving boy to the media’s AIDS scapegoat, and ends in Sixties-era Islington, where he witnesses the turbulent relationship (and ultimate murder/suicide) of Joe Orton and jealous lover Kenneth Halliwell.
The motif of fruit oozes through this production, infiltrating the stage design, lighting, and action. If ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ and ‘Call My By Your Name’ had a child, it would probably look a like this. Marcus McManus and Rosie-Lea Sparkle offer necessary support for Donald, using movement and bodies to become at once other characters and Donald’s internal mindscape. Pollyanna Newcombe as director keeps these moments of movement solid and precise. If ‘A Sticky Season’ could be improved, it would be Donald allowing himself to relax with his audience and enjoy the comedic moments more. Riveting stuff that deserves a run in its own right.
A less convincing second half dampens the impact of Donald’s piece, but remains fun nonetheless. ‘Minor Disruptions’ introduces us to Katie Paterson’s take on childhood. Relying heavily on audience participation, Paterson’s one-person show is funny at times, performed with confidence, and showing skills in improvisation that match those of a stand-up comic. However, a drab finish and too much time spent (literally) in the dark makes the show feel unfinished. Some interesting moments, such as having audience members slopping sun cream and water all over the place, are overshadowed by the more tedious sections that neither reveal anything new nor drive along some semblance of a story.
The final show is ‘Crystal Bollix Presents The Bitch Ball’, a study of bitch-ness with Alexandra Christie’s alter-ego Crystal Bollix. Accompanied by deadpan and underused pianist Lena Stahl, Bollix takes us through a brief history of the word ‘bitch’ and their own relationship to it. The show relies, as advertised, heavily on lip-syncing and audience interaction, but both need to be turned up to 11 to make the whole thing more enjoyable. There needs to be more happening here to make watching someone lip-sync entertaining past the opening few minutes.
Queer Trilogy is a mixed bag of an evening, but worth it for ‘A Sticky Season’. Anyone who likes the idea of sharing a hamster story, or having their face plunged into whipped cream, will enjoy the second half too.