FringeReview UK 2019
The Amplify initiative aims to put womxn’s stories front and centre and create a network of work with future life. It is a showcase of short plays that are socially relevant, inclusive and artistically engaging. The 2019 showcase is the first of its kind by Kibo Productions, who aim to make it an annual event.
The showcase consists of seven short plays, all of which deal with a multitude of social issues. Telling the diverse stories of women from different parts of the world.
‘Where de Mangoes Grow’ written by Chantelle Dusette and directed by Scott Le Crass, tells a story of two generations. On one hand we have Devon (Gavin Gordon) and Valerie Grant (Nicole Sawyer), of the Windrush generation, and on the other their British-born daughter, Robyn (Chantelle Dusette) and her boyfriend Ben (Matthew Pieterse).
This is a very beautiful piece and perhaps the strongest one in the showcase in terms of writing, directing and acting. There are many different dynamics to it and although it is a heavy dramatic piece, there are also some great comedic moments.
The highlights include Valerie Grant expressing how much she wants to go back to Jamaica – telling her husband that she cannot stand the benevolent racism she’s experiencing. “Oh your hair is so curly, how do you do it so curly?” “Oh your skin is so smooth, how do you make it so smooth?” It is not great trying to settle somewhere and constantly being made to feel like you don’t belong there. Both the writing and acting do a great job at communicating this feeling. Then years later, her daughter continues to experience racism and although she is British-born, what she experiences is much more aggressive – “Go back to your country!”
The use of spoken word poetry as Robyn tries to express to the audience how she feels about her heritage, her parents, her past, her future and the Windrush scandal is excellent. It is very well written and beautifully acted by Dusette. The final highlight is the use of voice-overs, including speeches made by Theresa May as home secretary and as Prime Minister, about immigration.
‘PDA’ written by Andrea Aptecker and directed by Sabrina Richmond, tells the story of Magnus (Jonathan James) and Ana (Khadija Richmond) who invite their enthusiastic American neighbours over for coffee (Dima Medad and Chad-Lee Brown). Although they appear nothing like each other, appearances may well be deceiving as Magnus and Ana are also passionate and happy, even if they don’t show the same Public Display of Affection.
This is a very funny and well-written piece that gives an insight into different cultures and how they express themselves differently. There is a great line by Magnus, who is Norwegian, saying ‘in Norway no one is happy, they are satisfied’ and as he claims this is more real than sudden bursts of happiness that don’t last. But Ana doesn’t seem to agree, ultimately she gets her husband to admit that he is happy and she is the reason for that. There was great chemistry between James and Richmond and all actors gave strong performances that lifted Aptecker’s excellent writing.
‘To the Depths’ written by Shannon Murdoch and directed by Sharon Willems tells the story of Lila (May Cunningham) and her boyfriend (Matthew John Wright). Lila dreams of a new life, but although her boyfriend is preparing to leave before dawn breaks, she does not want to follow. Leaving for the wrong reasons is worse than not leaving at all.
This is another very well written piece with excellent acting. Much different to the previous ones in style, the storytelling is quite abstract which perfectly matches the turmoil the characters are feeling. As the story progresses we learn more and more about what the characters’ lives are like, why Lila isn’t happy and what has happened just before we meet them. This slow reveal has a huge impact on the audience and by the time of the black out, we were all breathing heavily, as Lila’s panic spread across the room.
A highlight was the significance of a prop – the lighter, which Lila used to control her panic. Its importance was evident from the script, but what was really beautiful was how its significance to Lila was communicated to us by Cunningham, who truly seemed connected to it.
‘Red as Rubies’ written by Kate Webster and directed by Lou Corben tells the story of Ruby (Jennifer Richards – understudy), a teenager with cancer. Her mother Tasha (Amelia Parillon) still believes her daughter can have a happy ending, but Ruby, with the help of her girlfriend Bex (Daisy Howard) is planning the only happily ever after she believes in.
Overall this was a good concept by Webster with some great dialogue and relatable pop culture references (mostly Drag Race references). Parillon’s performance was very touching and so was Howard’s. Although Richards must have had to step in last minute (and therefore had her script in her hand), she was able to support the story and allow the other actors to really showcase Webster’s emotional writing. My only criticism is that I did not feel the ending was needed. The preliminary scene was in fact very impactful and it felt like it did more justice to the overall story than the actual final scene.
‘The Stakeout’ written by K. Alexa Mavromatis and directed by Grace Wessels, takes place outside a large house where two teenagers (Ash Sanchez and Rachel Fenwick) have set up camp to spy on the residents. It’s the story of a teenage girl, abandoned by her father and now trying to catch a glimpse of him and her half-sister, who appears to have a better life than herself.
Simply staged and taking place in real time, this starts off as a very funny story. The teenagers are having coffee and donuts and spying on a mysterious stranger that may well be a boy from school. But as it is revealed to us who he really is, the story takes a different turn. The dialogue is very well written and I can really imagine this story being a scene of a longer play that I would definitely want to watch.
‘Lightning Girl’ written by Rita Anderson and directed by Christine Mears is a surreal account of Juliane Koepecke’s (Samantha Richards) life. Koepecke was the sole survivor of LANSA Flight 508, which crashed into the Peruvian rainforest in 1971. She was then 17 years old and had to walk through the rainforest for 12 days before being rescued. The story is supported by Lisa Stelley (playing Juliane’s mother), Emily Clark and Julien Short.
Based on a fascinating real story this is a great concept and the surreal approach does make sense. For someone who wasn’t familiar with the story however it was quite hard to follow. The staging decisions were good and the text was great too, but overall the storytelling felt a bit messy. I think that this can be fixed with a clearer structure to ensure, that even within this surreal style, the audience is able to follow the story at all times. On the other hand going in the opposite direction and making it even more abstract, may also work. By eliminating entirely moments that appear to be traditional scenes either within the text or by staging them differently. Richards gave a very touching performance as Koepecke and so did Stelley as her mother.
‘The Crease’ written by Kelly Jones and directed by Leo Bacica is the story of Dawn (Alma Reising), an older lesbian who is a gay bar virgin and Noah (Jasmine Yelland), a trans man who learned the hard way that transphobia is very much alive even in 2019 Soho, London.
This is another good concept, with well-written dialogue and an overall good story arc. The ending only seemed a bit flat and that was perhaps more of a staging issue. The choice to have the music on when the characters dance and off when they speak was a bit strange as having the characters shout over the loud music (that could have just been a bit turned down) would keep the atmosphere alive and the stakes higher. There were some great jokes that landed well and both actors gave good performances.
This was a great initiative by Kibo productions that showcased some excellent new talent. Well done and looking forward to the next one!