Given the current economic condition, particularly for the arts, it takes major league cajones to open a new theatre in the capital but that is exactly what Jamie Eastlake, Ella Marchment and Liam Docherty have done, taking over the space above the White Hart pub in Stoke Newington to create TheatreN16 and I was thrilled to go along to their opening night which consisted of three short plays.
Kicking off the evening was “30 Minutes” by Kim Southey. Jo (Emma Rose Davies) is totally in control of her life. A power dressing, go-getting woman of business, she has her day planned down to the last minute, knowing exactly where she will be and what she will be doing throughout the day and night. Even leisure time, such as she has, is planned meticulously. But now, she has a problem. Around 3 months ago Jo was persuaded by her colleague Maddy (Charlotte Jacobs) to have a couple of drinks at the staff summer party and she met a young man by the name of Kris (Rory Fairbaim) with whom she had a one-night stand, the repercussions of which she is feeling every day. Jo is at a crossroads in her life. One that, she feels, has only one exit, but given the complications that Chris brings to the mix, is there another way for her to go?
I really liked this play. Jo’s story was told in a series of one-to-one dialogues with the audience and flashbacks and we had a real sense of Jo’s character and personality. Indeed, as someone who sets his alarm clock to go off 1 minute earlier than the hour, I could actually identify with Jo way too much. Both of the supporting actors were great, particularly Chris who had his own journey to go through and although I didn’t agree with Jo’s ultimate decision, I cared enough to empathise with her reasoning and to not judge her.
This was followed by “4 to 6 Pounds” written and performed by Sean Paul Jenkinson. In an undertaker’s office, a man has come to say goodbye to his father. That’s putting things very simply. He has actually come to say so much more. This is his chance to finally give voice to his feelings and ask the questions that have been haunting him for years of a man that was no longer in a position to respond in his customary style. The, for want of a better word, discussion is wide ranging but ultimately comes down to two things. The first, is the father’s treatment of the man’s mother which was let’s be honest, not the best and the second was the son needing to explain that no matter what the circumstances or provocation or what perceived wisdom dictates, he would never follow in his father’s footsteps.
“4 to 6 Pounds” was a very powerful play delivered by one man talking to an urn on a table. It worked so well and Sean delivered a superb performance, his face lighting up as he reminisced about the good times with his father and others and then his entire countenance changing as his memories of the bad times came to the fore. The performance was totally believable and I think would resonate with anyone that has ever wanted to have that final conversation with a relative. If I have one criticism it was the ending which I had planned in my head and didn’t go the way I thought it would. That probably says more about me as a frustrated amature writer than about the play itself which was a wonderful example of a one man performance.
After an Interval, the final production of this very strong opening night was Matt Fox’s “One Act Play” Two people wake up in bed together. The first, a young lady with a fairly broad Yorkshire accent (Jennifer Thompson) starts to talk to the audience about ‘Les Miserables’ and the fact that Jean Valjean can be trusted as he has a beard which he displays proudly whilst none of the other main characters do. She stops and the young man next to her (Rob Leach) pipes up with a way too pronounced Yorkshire accent talking about T’Royal T’Shakespeare T’Company and their t’productions (these are his additional ‘T’s not my typing gone mad). Eventually, the characters notice each other and start to chat together forming a relationship that questions their knowledge and very existence. They are unsure of where their lives are going and start making plans based on what they ‘know’ to be truth and what they ‘believe’ may be out there. But, is there a more powerful force controlling their destiny?
So, the best way to describe “One Act Play” is that it started weirdly, got even weirder and ended in the weirdest way possible and was awesome because of its weirdness. The two actors were fantastic together, bouncing of each other with perfect timing and drawing the audience into their ‘lives’, both by breaking the fourth wall – scattering metaphorical bits of plasterboard all over the place – and completely ignoring them. Although I was never sure where the play was going to end up, I absolutely loved going on the journey with our two characters.
The aim of TheatreN16 is “to make this space the place to come in London for up and coming theatre companies and writers and actors without any large overheads to cripple them before they’ve even got around to making their work.” Well, based on the amazingly strong opening night performances and the shows they have lined up already, I truly believe that this exciting new fringe venue will go from strength to strength, and I’m really looking forward to my next visit.
Review by Terry Eastham
“Our main aim is to make this space the place to come in London for up and coming theatre companies and writers and actors without any large overheads to cripple them before they’ve even got around to making their work.
As companies like ideastap go broke and the arts council continues it shrink we feel like it is a vital time for theatre practitioners to be given this sort of opportunity.”
Friday 22nd May 2015