Brighton Fringe 2012
Jump Through Hoops Theatre
The Old Courtroom
Standards is part a duo of plays brought to the Brighton Fringe. Screwed, the other play we unfortunately didn’t get to see is billed thus: : "Amy & Karen’s invite you into their world where reality gets a little bit screwed up." Standards concerns "old school friends reunited by chance. Everyone has a past" and this short play unravels that past.
A tale of school friends reunited, Standards is a very accessible piece of writing supported by a uniformly strong cast.
The story reminded me of Calolm McGregor’s Frankly Outrageous. It is a debut bit of writing from writer Ray Anthony. The style of dialogue ties itself Very closely to naturalism – the language and the verbal interplay. Four blokes, ex-school friends talk as if they haven’t grown up. Yet grown up they have, the playground replaced by gritty life and a past emerges. We then focus on one individual and he re-encounter with someone he pined for, untouchable, at school. The man and the woman meet. Past is rekindled, present kindled anew.
Scene changes felt a bit slow and not tightly coordinated with link music in a production that otherwise was characterised by tight dialogue, excellent tempo and believable writing and acting. The mood and pace was set just right and though this isn’t hard-hitting, it is still powerful through its ability to allow people to simply talk and react to each other. The stagecraft is simple and the play all the more affecting for it.
The acting is indeed strong and the writing targets its themes with sharpness and economy. There’s a swish realism to the dialogue and it’s rather filmic in places. Johnny is woman-dyslexic and there’s some Allen-esque comedy here that the writer allows to develop without too much clever interference from the pen (or the keyboard).
Small details matter. Plastic wine glasses in a restaurant don’t cut the mustard and red wine needs to look like red wine. This needs to be finessed on tour.
A relationship progressing (or regressing) into wretched contentment. The moment when the mojo departs. Some very prevalent themes lie at the heart of Standards.
These are people with different standards and the dissonance between them is what turns this into interesting theatre. This play sits at the interface between different human yearnings, each a different take on life.
This is some of the cleanest (in terms of acting technique) and slickest acting I’ve seen in the Fringe.
Why don’t we seize the moment when it presents itself ? Why do we look back with regret? Can we refind the list moment and do it right second time around ? Standards is well worth seeing to explore these questions.