The Hamlet-fest of 2011
The bad Hamlet

Budding playwrights showcase short plays

5663379590_d44576c45f Went to the First Draft April Showers festival this week at the Horse Pub near Waterloo. It's a great idea: aspiring playwrights get a chance to have their short plays performed by real actors in front of a paying audience.

The call for submissions elicited more than 350 responses which were whittled down to 16 for staged readings. Then, based on the audiences and creatives response, seven were chosen for the festival running in blocks of four and three in Rep as part of the festival.

And that's what I saw on Wednesday night, four of the chosen plays (with Caryll Churchill who also in the audience apparently):

Your Female Companion by Catie O'Keefe

This was part of a longer piece, which was never finished, examining gender identities. It was my least favourite of the four revolving around a group of woman each displaying various female stereotypes. One scoffed chocolate, one obsessed about make up and they all cooed about the one who had a baby for example.

Then one reveals a sexual fantasy in which she is tied up and dominated but was quickly ejected from the group. Throughout they were inexplicably homophobic.

It was nicely executed with each character walking on and putting on a pair of red shoes before sitting on one of a row of high stools but overall I'm not sure what the point was or what I was supposed to make of this exaggerated and unflattering view of women. Perhaps the wider piece would have explained.

Fresh Meat by Jason Harrison

Set in the kitchen of a celebrity chef who is rehearsing there is an unidentifiable moaning-type sound coming from off stage. The chef, Andrew, is confronted by his ex-lover George who is desperate to get back together.

George thinks the moaning is Andrew's new lover.

The play is about getting older and whether it is better to settle with what you have or go for 'fresh meat'. However, this is a black comedy so the fresh meat has added significance.

I enjoyed this one with its clever twist, mixing the metaphorical with the real.

An Apology/Request by Daran Johnson

There was something Monty Python-esque about this one. Peter has come to ask Jacob if he can marry his daughter Claire. But Jacob isn't about to say yes because Peter has already been out with two of his daughters neither of whom lived to tell the tale.

Johnson is a comedy writer and his skill and experience are evident. This was my favourite of the four plays, darkly funny - I could see it being parred down further to a sketch on a comedy show.

Would be interested to see a longer piece.

And Now For the End of the World by Chris Lee

This had the feel of a modern day fable and its message isn't subtle: You don't appreciate what you've got until you lose it.

It's told through an end of the world scenario with various characters responding differently to the predicament. The world is about to end but then aliens, in search of a new home, come along and rescue the Earth. After initial euphoria the humans start to reject the aliens for being, well alien. The aliens leave for another planet offering to take anyone who wants to go with them. Some do. Left on earth the humans realise that the aliens 'fix' for planet earth won't hold and the end of the world looms once again.

It's lack of subtlety is a bit jarring and although it is an imaginative way of presenting the subject matter, I don't think it was saying anything particularly new, just giving it a more contemporary context.

First Draft will be showcasing more new work soon and top tip when visiting the Horse pub, start queueing for seats early so you can nab one of the lovely leather sofas to sit on.

Image by Litherland on Flickr and used under a creative commons license.