Fringe Online 2021
Jermyn Street Theatre and Creative Associates
Jermyn Street Branching Out Directed by members of Creative Associates for JST’s Footprints Festival. Designed by Louie Whitmore. Lighting by Johanna Town’s simple. Camera work from several angles (Director Mark Swadel, Operator Balazs Weidner), including seventy-five degrees overhead, are deftly sequenced. One night only June 23rd Filmed and may be later available as stream.
Branching Out features Darren Sinnott, Ellliot Pritchard Hana Pascal Keegan Gabriela Bird, Aykut Hilmi, Josh Zaré, Zak Ghazi-Torbati.
Creative Associates bring a quartet of plays under the umbrella of Branching Out: identity and he fracturing effect of nationalism at regal and private, or public citizen level make the first half deeply serious. It’s what we need.
We can have a few technical glitches with so many changes. So bear with a couple of delays. It’s live.
Jessica Warbeck Butterflies in the Dust
We’re in a curiously modern Ruritania, always creative, often rootless of effect. Then names like the camera focus swim into view. We know where we are.
Robert – Darren Sinnott – tells queen Elizabeth that he’s dead, it was done cleanly, maybe not view the body on an empty stomach. Then she takes a mobile call.
Like that and other calls Elizabeth’s seemingly in a different mode. Told the man’s head would be placed on a spike, she thinks of how butterflies don’t make it to adulthood and feels ravenous. Then she asks the faithful Robert who he is and we realise she’s imprisoned and her son’s the one executed. Or is he? She needs to know how he smells.
Directed by Hana Pascal Keegan Butterflies in the Dust stars the writer of the work Jessica Warbeck who centres her performance in stillness and a slow dishevelment and then back again.
Elizabeth curiously reflects on being too strong but not sexually attractive; her failure to her people because of those paradoxes. Robert and Elizabeth circle… virginity’s mentioned. ‘Get into my bed… please let me choose.’ Then another call from a doctor. And another speech as Robert dresses Elizabeth.
A fine disquisition on the imprisonment of roles, and the indirection of a dead son, it’s an evocative piece that comes into its own swimming between the no-land we don’t know and a moment almost universally recognised.
Aaron Kilercioglu A Tree Called Max
A young man – played by Josh Zaré – is meeting another older one – Aykut Hilmi – who says the younger looks – we don’t know, but not as in his photo. Hilmi’s character hands Zaré’s a piece of apple, and refers to his wife. He points to a maple tree called Max.
Directed by Seamus Dillane A Tree Called Max is full of hesitancies and the unfamiliarity of a new land, Turkey, where Zaré’s young protagonist waits. He meets his baba. There’s a quittance of dues. 23 years later Zaré’s more purposeful avatar is back to reclaim what he brought, some papers. Applying for citizenship he’s abrupt to the man portrayed by Hilmi he called Baba. But there’s reasons, politics, losses, furious disposals in the past. And then we’re back in the past. The language shifts. Is there a kernel of relating, a web of citizenship that might somehow map things?
Taking a intimate fractured relationship, Kilercioglu allows it to fan out to political agencies and accidents, yet allows for personal choice, fragile as it is, to determine what happens.
The second half begins with
Arran Bell and Elliot Pritchard First Time in a Dress
Arran Bell and Elliot Pritchard produce a musical extravaganza of cross dressing and an upright piano. Oh let’s just say erect. It’s delightful and smoulderingly lit in violet, red, blue. Elliot, a country boy’s really a city boy. Introducing the pair as the audience’s lesbian aunts he relates how the family would have come to his conversion therapy. Arran Bell ad-libs from the piano.
Have we been to Hampstead Heath at night? Well we can go there now. ‘Not unlike church where you see lots of men on knees… If you weren’t laughing it’d be a hate crime.’ The audience are delighted. ‘Leave Me Alone it’s Pride’ is despite high jinks deeply serious. It’s all over in fifteen. Seems like five.
We get fashion patter from Darren Sinnott leading into the final piece.
Aiofe Kennan Scratches
Written by and starring Aiofe Kennan Scratches is directed by Gabriela Bird. It’s overwhelmingly funny, witty, brilliantly written and noisily devastating. Heart-warming too.
‘Sod’s law the one time I get a single bed in my renting life I get the most sex…. I’d feel much more comfortable if I could give my vagina a quick wash…’ It gets more riotous. Like making a weird face when he’s doing it from behind. Quite fun. That’s the last lover. But what’s this with making three parallel scratches with a scalpel down each ankle…. So even washing your vagina doesn’t help when your ankles bleed profusely before sex. Then there’s a blood trail, then another. Wear socks to hide them: ‘You’re more likely to orgasm if your feet are warm… which is true by the way….’
But… there’s another man here. Played by Zak Ghazi-Torbati. A gay best friend sometimes. Scandalised by the sofa. And critiquing the story. ‘It’s just… vaginas are very Fleabag…. I just think I might have to be in it… the show.’ ‘It’s not a one-woman show – thank fuck!’ At a point of CBT someone’s called Sandra. So let’s call Kennan’s character Sandra.
But peaking at eighteen, sad at twenty, and now nearing twenty-six… there’s a big black hole of Sandra sadness played by Ghazi-Torbati. For a bit. Suicide ideation…. The woman doctor’s disappointed Sandra’s made no specific plans and suggests methods. Ghazi-Torbati does go into method. Mind Gym CBT doesn’t help nor does Sandra’s own GP father.
But understanding comes from unexpected people. There’s several ‘events’. Her sympatico boyfriend knows Sandra self-harms. Happened to him. Though when he declares his love – she has to tell best friend her reaction which isn’t helping the relationship at all. There’s the Saitalipran Song. And that goes with an unexpected bang. Like something out of Harry Potter before Rowling lost it… The first time an exploding glitter-ball’s come to Jermyn Street for a bit.
And some kind of an ending. Another boyfriend, less cool, and a moment of communion for Sandra with a woman on a tube, happy with the same scarring on her thighs.
Keenan’s writing has enormous potential and in this role she’s a sovereign actor too. Ghazi-Torbati beautifully segues from GBF to boyfriend in a beat as they pass each other onstage.
This is the best kind of play on depression, self-harm, black holes. Because it’s screamingly funny and deeply connected to why we do theatre. In a night of very fine plays it’s what I’d got back for and hope we can see the full Sandra. Washed or not. Outstanding.