Fringe Online 2021
Another Showcase from Jermyn Street’s Footprint Festival. Three shorts by Chekhov, Thomas Heath, Somebody Jones. Creative Associates are joined by writer Heath, director Charles Douglas, dramaturg Oliver McFadden, actors Colette Eaton, Seb Fear, Hannah Moss, translator/actor Bea Svistunenko. Directed by Khadifa Wong. Designer Jessie McKenzie, Lighting by Johanna Town. Producer Georgia Hulkes. Camera work from several angles (Director Mark Swadel, Operator Balazs Weidner), including seventy-five degrees overhead, are deftly sequenced. Till June 2nd – one night only. Filmed and may be later available as stream.
Enter pursued by a bear… This Showcase Push and Pull is about just that: love and hate, antagonism/attraction. Three shorts by Chekhov, Thomas Heath, Somebody Jones.
And we start with The Bear – a new adaptation of Chekhov’s farcical comedy about a widow and her creditor. It’s the full thirty-minute drama. But we don’t end there.
Creative Associates despite their deadpan name are an ensemble –Sound Designer Ali Taie, Designer Layla Bradbeer (they’re also co-founders of Opsis Theatre Company), Krystal Campbell, writer Somebody Jones, directors Khadifa Wong and Gabriella Bird. We’ve just seen Jones and Wong write and direct the excellent one-person drama How I Learned to Swim. That’s on till the 10th though Push and Pull is one night only.
Creative Associates are joined by writer Thomas Heath, director Charles Douglas, dramaturg Oliver McFadden, actors Colette Eaton, Seb Fear, Hannah Moss, designer Jessie McKenzie and translator/actor Bea Svistunenko. Festival Lighting by Johanna Town’s a play of light and shadows, mini-blackouts.
This Chekhov gets a workout. It’s amazing the few chairs present don’t get smashed. Emphatic, nicely boorish, shouty, not quite the Chekhov we know elsewhere because the play’s more broadly comic. But that’s to underestimate it, and why it’s still a perennial prelude to Chekhov’s great full-length work.
The Bear of the title is a creditor plying the widow for monies due. No-one’s paying and everyone’s after him too. Despite the attempts of venerable servant Luca the anti-hero gets so worked up with mutual explosives he challenges the widow to a duel…But he has to intimately school her in how to shoot. Head to head. Oops. Something’s going off bang but is it the pistols? And is Chekhov breaking a golden theatre rule?
There’s terrific energy in dispatch, irradiating the text – a brilliant barebones rendition. Bea Svistunenko leads the trio.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
And it’s Opsis with Thomas Heath’s Assault with a Deadly Weapon ‘a story for our times about communication, isolation, and data’. ‘Surely we can be more than the noise’ one character of this trio pleads, but the apt sound design by Taie contradicts her, drowning any meta-narratives. Colette Eaton, Seb Fear, Hannah Moss negotiate the noise but each telling, each story where a piece of equipment is left behind – like a mobile – should be liberating, but somehow isn’t. Universal noise covers all. Redolent of Caryl Churchill, it’s a piece to unravel and ponder. Characters are fascinating ciphers, existentially in limbo.
I’m Your Rope
In Somebody Jones’ I’m Your Rope, Simeon and Lilah try to work out their true relationship. Acted by writer Jones and director Khadifa Wong these two are attracted but how? Lilah says in the Sleeping Princess she’d be in love with the princess. What about being the bestest friends they can be, ever? What about Lilah’s cough, Simeon’s uncertainty, her unerring sense of direction, his tendency to get lost? Can Lilah lend Simeon radar? Teasing, touching deserving of more than even these twenty minutes to unravel, it lingers most of the three.
Snow Half-White is heralded a blend of autobiography and myth told through movement and speech, but is cut.
Whilst sound design for The Bear with its wonderfully clarion farce is bell-like, the ingenious Assault and plangent I’m Your Rope suffer a drop in audibility online. One because of the sound design – it’s very tricky to predict how this transmits. I’m Your Rope is such a shaded nuanced piece it needs sotto voce and receives it, though for some reason Jones and Khadifa’s voice fall below optimal audibility unlike the presenter’s in the same space. Their acting and that of all concerned prove exemplary, and the last piece in particular has a touch of kin that makes you want to see it again.
A rewarding set of contrasts and a quietly thrilling evening, after it goes off with a bang and a bear.