Brighton Fringe 2010
The Old Courtroom comes to life with a different selection of plays with free strawberries and cake to enjoy on Sunday afternoons.
The plays on offer are:
Playwriting 101 – A lecturer demonstrates how to write a scene properly, but when the tables are turned on him, will the results be the same?
Nice People – A couple are interviewed for a television programme. They seem normal…or are they?
Puppy Loathe – Two strangers meet on a park bench. What seems to be a normal conversation about a dog, turns out to be something else entirely.
Waiting for No 4 – When an attempted mugging at a bus stop goes wrong, victim and mugger form an unlikely friendship. But who is the real victim here?
Metal Musik – A popular 80s synth pop band are making a comeback, but are they actually at the gigs and who is controlling them?
Home Movie – A porn movie is about to be shot, but with the star wanting the action now as opposed to her lover wanting to get the technical shots perfect, does the script reflect the reality of the situation?
Sleepless Nights – a love story that takes interesting twists and turns as a man becomes obsessed with a woman he claims to hate, then can’t forget.
Sunday afternoon’s offering of the Bite-Size plays this time round offered more challenging pieces of work to what we normally expect from White Room Theatre. The atmosphere again was good as the anticipation grew, with a mixture of people who were avid followers of the shows, and those who didn’t know what to expect.
Unfortunately what let this offering down were two pieces that were either not as sharply written as they ought to be for this standard of work, or a little too heavy for a Sunday afternoon showing. I suspect it was a bit of both. So, onto each short piece:
Andrew Allen kick starts the afternoon’s proceedings by playing a lecturer trying to tell his students the best way of writing a scene for a film. He uses a suicide attempt as his starting point, whilst clicking a clicker button to switch the scenes in and out of reality.
His perfect comedy timing really shines through as he compares the best and worst choices of writing – especially if he feels a scene goes wrong. The slickness of the lines through his rather pessimistic attitude highlights his frustration at things not being perfect, created a hard hitting type of comedy, which hasn’t been seen outside of the mainstream media in a long time.
But it was the supreme talents of Alice Robinson and Harriett Vallack that stole the show in the end as they turned the tables on the lecturer by becoming the ones in control. The use of subtlety vs. the extreme madness as Andrew lost control altogether heightened the comedy in general as the sound of the clicks overlapped, the voices started to raise and the gun was drawn out!
As a whole, this piece is fast, subtle and crazy at the same time. A real challenge to any actor involved.
Clive Wedderburn and Lucy Turner become a rather unusual couple being interviewed for television in this understated, sexually charged scenario. They come across as a seemingly normal looking couple, but the tension shown at the beginning suggested otherwise, so much so the niceness was almost nauseating.
As the interview progressed, we saw the real encounter they had of a romantic meet – a bank robbery, with the lady doing the robbery! Lucy Turner made a good switch from the sophisticated lady to a fiesty, sexy one who knew how to operate a gun. But it was her and Clive’s almost nonchalant and nice attitude that made the audience howl with laughter as well as the deliberate relaxation as the reality of the situation is revealed.
With a strong and witty script such as this as well as strong actors, this piece certainly goes to show that crime and leisure does indeed pay – especially if you’re on the run.
Danielle White and Andrew Allen join forces to bring the play of two strangers meeting in a park with a dog being at the centre of it. What develops is an unusual discovery about what really makes us tick in a raw way, rather than how society expects us to behave normally.
It was a little confusing in several places as the writing fell flat – especially when compliments to the dog were misread. It felt like it was constantly going around in circles and not necessarily resolving anything. However, both actors made a supremely good effort and made the best out of the situation.
When the twist occurs (an odd dance of courtship), the actual piece picks up a pace and takes a different direction in challenging stereotypes in the sense of humans becoming more animalistic in their nature when it comes to sex and also when it comes to what people really want.
Despite this, the audience didn’t receive this piece as well as the others.
Waiting for No 4:
This scene took on a more dark twist as two women of very different statuses met at a bus stop. One was an elegant lady with an air of Audrey Hepburn about her (Miranda Christides), the other a lowly tramp like figure (Harriet Vallack). When the lower class lady tries to mug the elegant lady, they through a series of challenges to one another form an unlikely friendship.
Harriet’s character in many ways is a victim of society as we discovered. The hurt she has constantly with her due to her man leaving her was very realistically portrayed and made the audience feel sorry for her.
This in turn makes Miranda’s lady discover common ground with her in terms of men. The only difference is that she lost three men rather than one. As the writing suggests, all is not as it seems…the coolness portrayed and the boundaries put in place with all the men as well as the hidden knife in her handbag, showed the power the victim actually had.
But there again, who is the real victim in this case?
Although this was very well performed and formed a strong finish to the first act, the feel to this piece was a little too serious in places to really fit in with the light-heartedness that runs throughout the show.
The second act started with a bang as we saw a trio of a German Synth Band relaxing at the end of their recent gig.
What evolved was a rather challenging and exciting piece as one member slowly discovers that they are not really touring, but playing to virtual audiences from a warehouse in Germany. This not only brought up the idea of how much the media controls what music is turned out (using the metaphor of robots), but it also challenged the idea of music vs. the genuine pleasure created by music.
Between the three of them (Clive Wedderburn, Lewis Reid and Phillip Dunn), the energy performance wise never dropped and in terms of pace, craziness and emotional rollercoasters, it was a pleasure to watch. There were also some good one liners coming out of that show, such as for instance, when one of the members complained of not sleeping with anyone when it was revealed they were all robots, the lead singer replied ‘they’re picky robots!’
It also explored the idea of not being able to leave a space – that they were all being controlled.
Miranda Christides and Tom Clear depict a couple making a porn movie, but it is clear from the start that the star of the show wants to get the action started sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the director and co-star wants to try to get the right camera angles and the script right before shooting.
Through this over-analysing, we can see Miranda’s frustration shine through rather quickly and try to get him to shoot her now. What creates the comedy here is the practicality of the director as he says to her that unless the script is just so, the magic can’t be created.
But it’s the startling realisation of the fact that he doesn’t want to sleep with her that changes the dynamic of the scene, which ironically matches the film storyline depicted. It’s rather sudden, but the sensitive handling of the situation by both actors is good to see here.
Both actors have a good chemistry between them – especially as the scene finishes and the camera rolls.
To complete this Tea Party, we had a charming four hander romantic comedy, which showed the story of a man who loses sleep over a woman he claims to hate, but doesn’t forget.
This is given the Bertolt Brecht treatment in terms of style – that is, deliberately making the audience aware of the fact a story’s being told and it is not real life. It was easy to follow and pleasant to listen to as it developed.
Clive Wedderburn once again comes up trumps as the leading male in this case. His emotional journey as he tries so hard to forget the woman (Lucy Turner) he met at a party through his two friends (played by Phillip Dunn and Kirrily Long) is endearing and despite deliberately isolating the audience through narration, you couldn’t help but feel connected with the character.
Lucy Turner is equally charming as the woman who haunts his dreams Rita. Her condescending attitude towards our hero puts us off at first, but when they meet again abroad, the change she has in attitude is subtle and makes you want to get them together, despite both of them messing things up.
A happy ending to this piece brought a nice close to these Bite Sized Plays. Highly recommended once again.