Review: Roundabout new writing season at Shoreditch Town Hall
My first theatre-a-thon: three new plays in six hours with three friends to share it with - @polyg, @jongilmartin1 and M.
But before I dive into my mini reviews (they are short plays) a brief explanation of the Roundabout Season. It's a collaboration between Paines Plough, Sheffield Theatres and the National Theatre. The venue for the London leg is a temporary theatre in the round constructed in the grand Shoreditch Town Hall - the auditorium reminded me of when I saw Cock at the Royal Court Upstairs.
It's unallocated seating but you choose a coloured button (pictured right) before you go in and are directed to a portion of the auditorium that matches your colour. (Tip: Choose yellow if you want to be closest to the exit/loos). A nifty way of getting the audience to spread out but as no one was collecting buttons I'm wondering how long it will be before they run out.
#1 One Day When We Were Young by Nick Payne, directed by Clare Lizzimore
Story: It's 1942 and young couple Violet (Maia Alexander) and Leonard (Andrew Sheridan) decide to consummate their relationship before Leonard heads off to war. What happens that night shapes the rest of their lives but the consequences are only revealed as we revisit the couple at two later points in their lives.
Impression: It's a lovely idea and had some really nice moments in it. There was a wonderfully portrayed awkwardness to the couples first liaison but the plot seemed a little too mechanical and obvious. And there was a class gap between the lovers that is never explained and as I result I just wasn't convinced about their feelings for one another which is kind of important for what happens later on.
Wasn't my favourite: 3/5
Story: M (Alistair Cope) and W (Kate O'Flynn) are debating whether to have children or not: is is it the social and environmentally responsible thing to do, should they adopt, will they make good parents, what type of parents will they make etc but as they make their decision and events unfold the debate turns to will their relationship survive.
Impression: Script was witty and well-observed - I'm sure anyone who's been in a relationship will recognise something even if they haven't had the baby debate.
It is nicely paced with deft transitions as the story jumps forwards. W isn't the most likeable of characters - she's quite bossy - and I know that @polyg didn't warm to her at all but that wasn't an issue for me.
Great performances - particularly from O'Flynn who showed great emotional range and even had me welling up at one point. There was a couple sat opposite who were expecting and it was interesting watching their reaction too.
Will definitely keep an eye out for Macmillan's work in future, my favourite: 5/5
#3 The Sound of Heavy Rain by Penelope Skinner, directed by James Grieve
Story: Club singer Foxie O'Hara (Kate O'Flynn) goes missing on the night her friend Maggie (Maia Alexander) announces her engagement. Maggie enlists the help of Dabrowski an alcoholic private detective (Andrew Sheridan) to find her. Naturally there is more to this disappearance than meets the eye but will Dabrowski unearth the truth about Foxie and on the way about himself.
Impression: Probably the most atmospheric of the three pieces in terms of production. This is part mystery and part cabaret - @polyg described it best as reminiscent of The Singing Detective.
Fast paced we follow Dabrowski on his mission to find Foxie but how stable is he? When he starts seeing Foxie and talking to her is it the real Foxie or is it in his drink addled brain? With clever lighting - lightning flashes and spotlights picking out characters among the audience and giving glimpses such as flashes of a figure with Foxie's trademark red hair.
Now whether the result of fatigue at the end of the day or whether the script needs a bit more work I'm not sure but I did get confused and if you sat me down and asked me to outline the plot I'm not sure I could. There was certainly stuff to enjoy and I thought the staging was effective but perhaps a bit more attention to detail, from both sides.
It's getting 3 and half out of five.
With Richard Wilson not only involved as a director and in the audience (sat behind Jon) I decided to focus attention on him. This is just a quick search so there maybe more direct connections but it'll do for now: Richard plays Gaius in Merlin which also stars Nathaniel Parker who was in Stardust in which Sienna Miller appeared and she, of course, played Mr W's girlfriend in Layer Cake.
Any better ones?