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Royal Court Rough Cuts: Bytes of tasty theatrical morsals

510x340.fitandcrop-1For the uninitiated the Royal Court's Rough Cuts season is the equivalent of a theatrical taster menu. You get bite-sized chunks of works in progress or short plays from up and coming playwrights.

And this quartet was particularly tantalising with new work - under the theme of interaction with the internet - by Alia Bano (Shades), DC Moore (Straight, The Swan, Town), Nick Payne (Wanderlust, Constellations) and Penelope Skinner (Sound of Heavy Rain, The Village Bike).

Bano's play was set in a secondary school and was both funny and terrifying as a class full of teenagers terrorised a new teacher, trying to find out as much as they could about him from the internet. When a picture of him naked emerges there could be trouble and trouble there was because that was where it finished. So many questions left unanswered, definitely one I'd watch more of.

Now DC Moore's was the most intriguing particularly following on from a rather unsatisfactory trip to see a staging of Solaris last year that left me questioning whether sci fi could work on stage. If this 15 minute 'bite' is anything to go by then it definitely can.

It was a two-hander and through a series of short scenes we discover that a young woman has been found buried in a pod that has been designed to support her life. She's been in the pod for about 300 years and is struggling to remember what her life was like before. The woman who found her seems to be one of only a few people left on the earth.

Again lots of questions and no need for actors to try and recreated swishing automatic doors with pieces of corrugated plastic.

Payne's Constellations was in my top ten last year and this new work shows a continuation of his experimentation in non-conventional narrative. If you've ever glanced down the comments on popular YouTube videos or celebrity interviews then you'll get an idea. The actors all sit in a circle with their back to the centre, reciting a selection comments.

It is at once entertaining and depressing and as such a simple, yet revealing tool showing that for all its brilliance the internet also gives every moronic, ill-informed, judgemental, prejudiced and often quite nasty voice its own virtual megaphone.

I'm not sure whether it would work as a longer piece or whether the concept would wear thin after a while but what I saw was excellent.

And finally Skinner's series of sketches focused on a young couple whose communication with each other is also with half a mind elsewhere on the internet or mobile phone or through a computer game. It was funny (a great competitive game of Wii tennis) and very well-observed and worked well as a short piece. If it was to be developed into something longer I'd give it a go but I'm not sure how far it would stretch.

All in all a cracking quartet (in part down to the fab cast: Al Weaver, Jack Bence, Mandeep Dhillon, Malachi Kirby, Rebecca Knight and Sarah Woodward and definitely worth £8. I haven't seen a Rough Cut yet that has made it into a fully fledged play but I'd be surprised if one of these didn't show up somewhere on the theatre scene in the future.

Rough Cuts: Bytes is on for a few more days (ends 22 Jan) and then Rough Cuts: Searched takes over on the 23 Jan which is a new work in progress by E V Crowe (Hero). Both are showing up as pretty much sold out but as the weather is bad it might be worth trying on the day for returns - there were one or two empty seats the night I went and that was before it started snowing.


Yes even at a Rough Cuts...a nice direct connection with Al Weaver who was in Hamlet with Mr W, he also understudied and took on the lead for the Monday evening performances and matinees.