(Brighton &) Hove Grown 2018
From beginning to end Cast Iron’s ‘A Pro of Nothing’ delights, intrigues and shocks. The evening consists of six short plays performed back to back by local actors. The writing was bold as were some of the performances. We are taken effortlessly into new worlds with each new play. This evening was one of pure delight and the packed audience howled with laughter and brimmed with anticipation, eagerness and readiness for the comic and tragic bombshells to hit.
The evening showcased co-founder Andrew Allen’s writing with local actors and directors as part of Hove Grown Fringe Festival at Sweet Dukebox, Southern Belle. The small, intimate setting was perfectly fitting for the evening as the small black box theatre kept the pieces within their awkward, claustrophobic and unique settings.
The first of the plays to be performed was ‘Joy’ directed by Chelsea Newton Mountney and performed by Daniel Lovett and Judey Bignell. The world we are plummeted into is at first naturalistic but as the scene progresses it becomes one of slight dystopia as Daniel, playing the under confident and jittery man arrives at the dating agency of which he is met by the dominating character played by Judey where she can’t quite understand why he has an appointment, to our growing unease and confusion. We then realise as she repeats over and over that: ‘everyone is in a couple’. The building tension coupled with this unique punchline creates such hilarity and it dawns on us that this world is far from normal as she explains that everything is in ‘perfect balance’. As he flounders with this news and his discomfort at her increasing physical affection his search for a companion becomes futile as she explains she is in a couple too. We feel for his disappointment as it grows more and more and as his physical and emotional apparatus dwindles in front of us. He exits even more unsure of himself than when he first arrived and just before we think it is over another character enters claiming herself to be called ‘Joy’ and in search of a partner as the lights go down, leaving us to wonder what may happen thereafter.
The second piece was called ‘Last Supper’ directed by Andrew Allen and Michelle Donkin. This piece transcends reality as we arrive at a dinner party set in the afterlife. We are met with Ghandi, incongruously and comically played by Alice Hiller, Mary Wollstonecraft played by Philippa Hammond and a self-deprecating Boots supervisor played by Barbara Halsey. It is the Boots supervisor’s ideal dinner party come to fruition according to Ghandi and the news that she is in fact dead slightly mortifies her, although more could have been made of this moment. To the outrage of Mary, the supervisor reveals that her private diaries have been published by ‘Penguin’. As Mary hears of this unknown evil that is ‘Penguin’ she becomes incensed creating such sharp humour and wit and joy to the audience. We find out that Mary is no stranger to these dinner parties and frequents many, she informs her friends that she is no stranger to modern lingo and contemporary developments, philosophies and ideas as she has learnt from Freud as well as his partiality for pastries. This unique piece has us filled with wonder however some of the dialogue could be refined down a little.
The third piece was a play called ‘Babble’ directed by Judy Bignell. We enter a domestic environment where a housewife dressed in a polka-dot blouse played by Heather-Rose Andrews is busying herself about her kitchen, cooking and preparing when her husband walks in and joins her in smelling the heavenly scent that wafts out of the oven. All of this, although not clearly mimed is playful and inventive and we enjoy and see, hear and smell this environment. The piece has us even more intrigued as the couple begin to talk in a strange almost European-like language of their own. We understand some of what they are communicating as they tease one another until the evening is interrupted by a sudden knock at the door. Two worlds seem to collide as a dirty, rugged and ill-looking man practically falls into their household pleading for help. We, as the audience find this moment priceless as he talks in English and practically tells them to ‘shut up’. We like his simple use of language and blatant demeanour. The scene continues to unfold with the man acting out his troubles like a series of charades as the couple stand in fear of him and what he could possibly be interpreting. The piece was deftly comic in writing and performances and was an absolute joy to watch.
The fourth performance was a piece called ‘Watch Us Wreck the Mic’ and was directed by Anthony Hibbs. Set in a private karaoke booth two drunken teenagers bicker and toast with multiple shots only to be joined by an older lady, Gloria changing the mood of the evening. The unlikely group begin to open up to one another telling tales and reminiscing about their past as Gloria explains she is ‘on a pilgrimage’. As one of the girls is on her way to get shots for them the other complains of only having a packet of ‘hula hoops since yesterday’. The comedy running throughout and the tragic story told by Gloria is emotional and tender and the scene ends with them toasting with hopeful anticipation towards their unknown future.
The fifth performance was called ‘Dick Joke’ and was chock full of taboo, debate, male privilege and jokes on masturbation. Both Marc Pinto and Matt Swann bounced off each other with wit, humour and irony. The final performance ‘Will of the People’ was performed by Matthew Mulvay as the Prime Minister and Andrew Allen as the Prime Minister’s deputy and director of the piece. A highly intense conversation takes ahold of the stage as we hang on their every word. Staged simply and expertly with the Prime Minister downstage and facing away from his deputy, it granted the Prime Minister perfect position in his ever increasing disarray and internal crumbling. The part of the deputy was played expertly by Andrew, his fierce eye contact, self-assured bearing and multilayered characterisation engaging and rich.
Overall it was a highly entertaining evening of clever, innovative writing covering many genres, worlds, characters and stories and one of which its audience enjoyed tremendously. To improve upon some of the dialogue could be refined a little and the performances tidied and enhanced in areas of physicality, articulation and boldness. However myself and the audience were constantly shocked with its many twists and turns in both comedy and tragedy and so I award it the rating of ‘recommended’. Indeed some of the performances deserve a special accolade and the writing itself too. I left with a smile on my face, feeling attached to each of the characters and the unique narratives and having experienced a wonderfully intimate evening of such variety.