“a manic tour de force performed by a hugely talented cast”
Scatterjam Theatre’s When It Happens by Rachel Causer, is part of the 2019 Camden Fringe Festival. This delightful three hander, performed by powerhouse actresses, turns on the idea that each woman is going about her daily activities until, at 2.16 pm, she experiences a transformation that utterly changes the world as she sees it, and, just as importantly, as the world sees her.
The small, intimate space at the Tristan Bates Theatre is precisely the right venue for Rachel Causer’s play. With a bare bones performance space that sketches an area bound by chairs on three sides, and two microphones at points of entry and exit, the audience is free to focus on the acting. And it’s the acting (ably directed by Kennedy Bloomer) which provides everything from portrayals of character to sound effects, lighting effects, props and music. This play is a manic tour de force performed by a hugely talented cast that is fifty five minutes or so of time well spent.
When It Happens begins quietly enough as we are introduced to Freya (Niamh Watson) who skitters on stage with some mysterious stains that look like blood on her white hoodie; Jenny (played by playwright Causer), in a work smart red blouse and a I-can-do-this grin, and Beth (Roisin Bevan), in a black shirt with a white towel draped over her shoulders. The towel turns out to have an important role to play as well. As each character begins to narrate her experience of what happens at 2.16 pm precisely, the other two swing into action as eager listeners but also supplying other characters as the stories proceed. Bevan is particularly good with her body language when called upon to portray the creepy male colleague that Jenny has to deal with, but it is a pleasure to watch all three at work.
The script itself is totally brilliant and confounds expectations. Each time that Causer introduces an overly familiar trope (for example, three women trapped in an anonymous dark space; three archetypes of women as virgin, madonna and whore) she transforms these into something utterly unexpected. The writing is by turns anarchic, explosive, but, by the end of the piece, empowering, and yes, fun. There are a wealth of memorable one liners that had the audience in stitches, and full of appreciative applause at the end of the show.
I strongly recommend that you book your ticket and rush to get your own theatrical epiphany while you still can.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Lexi Clare
When it Happens
Tristan Bates Theatre until 3rd August as part of Camden Fringe 2019
“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.