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Rough Cuts at the Royal Court

It's my first time at Rough Cuts. I've done rehearsed readings but not this short season at the Royal Court is where three plays are showcased as work in progress/experimental pieces in back to back 20 min segments.

The actors only have one day of rehearsal.

Permafrost by Brad Birch

Director: James McDonald

Cast: Lorraine Ashbourne (Mary) and Tom Brooke (Michael)

The scene is a bedsit. Mary, we quickly discover, is recently bereaved. She answers the door to Tom who worked with her, we'll assume, husband at a nearby factory. Tom has called to see how she is.

The 20 min slot progressed through several visits by Tom. Not a great deal is said. Mary is obviously still in a state of deep grief and Tom seems nervous and awkward but volunteers to help her with odd jobs.

And that is as much of a taster as we got. Where the story and presumably the relationship was going is anybodies guess. We were left tantalisingly at the doorstep of a hundred possibilities. But the pace was slow, combined with the fact that the actors didn't move around but sat on chairs to deliver their lines from the scripts it was difficult to engage.

That isn't to say that their performances weren't good Ashbourne, or Mrs Gollum, as I like to call her put in a particularly emotional performance, it's just the 20 minutes just skimmed the surface too much.

Buried by Alia Bano

Director: Joe Hill-Gibbons

Cast: Stephanie Street (Cathy), Claudia Harris (Jane), Geoffrey Streetfeild (Ryan, Jane's boyfriend).

This one was definitely further down the road to being a completed work. Jane's job has just cranked up to warped-speed as she helps prepare an important pitch. Good friend and colleague Cathy has just lost her mother and as well as contending with her grief has to organise a traditional Muslim funeral. She leans on Jane for support and comfort but Jane is new to a lot of the traditions and customs surrounding the death of a Muslim.

Tensions begin to rise as pressure from work lead Jane to confront Cathy about when she will return from compassionate leave and give vital help on the pitch.

This one had pace and in 20 minutes quickly built up a head of steam are underlying prejudices and tensions that left you wanting to find out more.

Hard Gravity by DC Jackson

Director: Jo McInnes

Cast: Siobhan Redmond (older Claire), Rosalind Sydney (younger Claire), Paul Higgins (older John), Brian Ferguson (younger John)

Now this was the choiciest cut. A clever set up in which the story of a couple at two different points in their lives are told simultaneously. Confused?

The setting is a pub with two separate tables. Old John has invited old Claire for a drink and likewise young John has invite young Claire for a drink. Both Johns are nervous, Young because he has something to tell Claire and old because he hasn't seen Claire for a many years. The reason for  young John nervousness quickly becomes clear when he tells Claire he wants to leave Glasgow and go travelling.

Parts of the script are recited simultaneously by the old and young characters; the words the same but matching each situation.  The narrative progress in a series of vignettes, short bits of conversation between each couple, the dialogue swapping from one to the other almost like watching a slow tennis match.

And what a great narrative it is. We see young Claire asking John 'What if I were pregnant?'. Whether she is or not is not immediately clear until we turn to older Claire telling older John that she was but that she had a miscarriage.

Again another tantalising point at which to end the play. This one was clever, interesting and well done. The timing is everything and if I had to pick just one I'd like to see completed it would be this one.