Little Pieces of Gold
Staged Reading Sessions
Reviewed – 10th October 2018
“the event has become a kind of deconstructed theatre form, with high quality casts and directors attached to each low budget production”
Writers able to fund their own shows are unlikely to be the most deserving of exposure so Suzette Coon’s talent showcase is invaluable. It’s also a rich experience for audiences. Far from the dour-sounding ‘Reading session’ billed, the event has become a kind of deconstructed theatre form, with high quality casts and directors attached to each low budget production.
The night’s six works, chosen from six hundred, begin with a comedy that dredges laughs from the low wage economy. ‘Sandwiches’ by Clare Reddaway shows life on the sandwich production line, with three tightly written acts squeezing in erotic sandwich fillings, a villain with a whistle played by Nigel Fyfe and a showdown at the industry’s ‘Sarnies’ awards.
Two women also see off an obnoxious male in the second of the night’s comedies, ‘Body Language’ by Sarah Pitard. Stefan Menaul draws howls of recognition as the excruciating, self-obsessed Tom, hitting on Katrina (Amy Reitsma) while she is trying to read up on cancer. Both his monologue and that of the eavesdropping Susan (Meaghan Martin), a cancer survivor, are fluent, funny and fierce.
Most of the plays carry a message about modern life but the exception is ‘Bothy’ by Ben Rogers, a tale of two men taking refuge in the Scottish hills. Callum is a jolly, yet strangely sinister local handyman; Andrew is a claims manager up from Croydon. The economy of the script and the way it keeps the audience guessing as to the motives of Callum display a rare gift of scene-writing, heightened further by the performances and direction. (David Beatty, Adam Mirsky and Imogen Wyatt Corner, respectively).
‘Humane’ follows, by Polly Creed, reviving a forgotten news story about Essex locals who face down riot police to end live exports of animals. Absolved of the need for visual dramatics, this work is liberated by the format, as Georgia Nicholson sits facing the audience, relating her character’s story with obdurate humanity.
Little happens in ‘Becoming’ by Trevor Kaneswaran, just a few quiet moments in the life of Praveen, who rejects his Sri Lankan roots as he slopes home from football and exchanges monosyllables with his Mum like any British teen. Once his uncle arrives Praveen understands more about who he is and takes up cricket. Slow, filmic, even in this basic form, and elevated by Akshay Gulati’s perfectly pitched delivery.
The choice for finale is Chantelle Dusette’s Windrush tale, ‘Where de Mangoes Grow’. A simple but eloquent poem spliced through with a montage of scenes, moments and recordings, yet it conveys an entire era of betrayal. Exquisite performances from all, but Reece Pantry’s slow acceptance of loss is impossibly moving.
Beautifully curated, and with all six plays and their casts giving a glimpse of some eye-catching talents, the ‘Little Pieces of Gold’ enterprise is well-named.
Reviewed by Dominic Gettins
Little Pieces of Gold
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Dolphins & Sharks
Reviewed – 15th September 2017
“Highly provocative, this left people arguing in the bar long past the show ended.”
I once read that when viewing theatre you should ask two questions – ‘why this play?’ and ‘why now?’, I don’t think I have ever seen a play on the London Fringe that gives such an immediate and affirmative answer to those questions, as Dolphins and Sharks.
Set in 2014, this is the story of 5 people grounded in a Harlem copy shop where racial, economic and social tensions flicker as brightly as the light from the broken down printer. We see them struggle to maintain their hope as pressures beyond their control mount and conspire to threaten what they value most, ultimately turning on each other as they clammer to stay afloat in a sinking world.
This is an invigorating production. What is extraordinary about this play is how much it achieves in its simplicity. James Anthony Tyler’s script doesn’t try to make grandiose statements about race and society, it settles for creating characters with warmth, humour and a level of humanity that is still only rarely afforded stage time for characters of non-white origin. In doing so, the swing it takes at modern America and Western values is far more ferocious than any political agenda can manage, encompassing questions of race, class, gender and economic corruption. These characters aren’t trying to change the world, they are just trying to survive in it; playing by rules they had no hand in making and fighting odds which are stacked against them. It’s effortlessly brutal and heart-breaking, offering no easy answers and issuing a direct challenge to its audience.
The cast is exceptional. Each character is vividly drawn and played with spirit and compassion. At the heart is Shyko Amos as Isabel, a woman who still finds the strength to be kind in a world that treats her with contempt. Amos’ performance is phenomenal. We laugh with Isabel, never at her, making the realisation of how badly she has been failed a punch in the gut that left the audience gasping. As Yusuf, the innocent who tries to keep faith that he can be his own man by doing the ‘right’ thing, Ammar Duffus is compelling. Shading each crack in Yusuf’s naivety and gently switching between charm, pride and vulnerability, keeping the audience on side as his desperation becomes more apparent. Scaling the corporate ladder, Rachel Handshaw’s Xiomara is torn between ambition, loyalty and expectation. Handshaw never lets the audience lose sight of her conflict, even as her friends do.
Hermeilio Miquel Aquino’s Danilo blasts onto the stage with a blitz of energy and charisma, which only becomes more energising as the character’s enthusiasm wanes. Finally Miquel Brown anchors the show as Miss Amenze, a woman standing up against the waste of potential she sees in the youth of her community. Lydia Parker’s direction is natural and invisible, giving the actors the full scope and freedom to do these characters justice. The set design is beautiful. The soundtrack beats are pounding. This is simply a quality production, with not a hair out of place.
I can’t recommend this play highly enough. Highly provocative, this left people arguing in the bar long past the show ended. Highlighting the issues of 2014, only serves to put a more glaring lens on the problems of today. How much have we accepted on blind faith? How much do we continue to accept? To survive amongst the sharks, dolphins need to swim together. But can the dolphins take on the sharks and re-write the rule book in order to thrive? Ultimately that is the gauntlet that this play throws down and it’s a question we all need to be asking.
Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com
Photography by Alexander Yip
DOLPHINS & SHARKS
is at the Finborough Theatre until 30th September