It’s rare to find a new writing night with high-quality pieces across the board. There’s usually a somewhat ‘dud’ piece that doesn’t seem to really cut it, which is always surprising given how many submissions new writing companies must receive. However, Pieces, produced by relatively new company KARMAN Theatre, managed to strike exactly the right balance of comedy and drama, with a range of styles and genres, in the four extracts that were presented at the Vaults Theatre last night. This latest instalment of new-writing (their shows are quarterly) played to a packed-out auditorium, with audience members giving each ‘piece’ the support and applause it deserved.
First up was an extract from Aaron Douglas’ Wing Wah. Douglas, who also acts, gives us a classic scenario reminiscent of Of Mice and Men (or even Pinky and the Brain): criminal mastermind (played by Douglas) is frustrated with the faux pas made by his hapless sidekick (played by KARMAN Theatre’s Jamie Seymour), in the aftermath of a robbery. Our dim-witted sidekick has made rather a series of errors, involving the purchase of cream eggs from the local newsagent Rasheed, who must now, according to Douglas’ increasingly irate character, be ‘dealt with’.
The play has a northern edge in the characters’ accents, which perhaps adds to the comedy of the situation, as they both find themselves in rather a pickle. Will their ‘friendship’ survive the plentiful differences they have? What does each character want really? We think we know, but the beauty of the piece is that our alliances keep switching as the scene unfolds.
The next piece, Mr. Pottle’s Revenge by Roy Proctor, reveals the widowed Mrs. Gallup (Augusta Armitage) in her living room, wooed by potential suitors Mr. Pottle (a blustering Ben Simon) and his nemesis (Jonty Weston). Weston’s character is smooth, sure of himself, and has a cunning trick up his sleeve to win Mrs. Gallup’s heart – he has memorised the first chapter of the Encyclopaedia, and can regale Mrs. Gallup with a string of facts regarding anything and everything beginning with ‘A.’ Mrs. Gallup’s simple naivety and desire for knowledge means she is highly impressionable, and easily impressed by this display of ‘learning’. However, Mr. Pottle quickly cottons on, and in a humorous twist, manages to play Weston’s character at his own game.
The third piece is an extract from Holly Robinson’s Soft Animals – a much darker story that reveals the circumstances in which Frankie (Hollie Edwin) became friendly with Sarah (Laura Costello). Joined by a mutual event, and the ramifications of its aftermath (involving the loss of Sarah’s child), Soft Animals takes its name from the various stuffed animals that Sarah starts collecting for Frankie, perhaps as a sign of gratitude, or perhaps as part of her grieving process. It’s touching and grows increasingly dark and perplexing, but at its heart celebrates the strength and necessity of budding female friendships, which is a joy in itself.
Finally, Vicki Connerty’s Come Die With Me, which presents a family dealing with their father’s coffin, now in their living room, is a brilliant end to the evening. Mum (Claire Lacey) wanted her dead husband back home (‘he always hated the cold’), and whilst son David (Alexander Jeremy) is none too fussed about the whole situation, Rachel (Susie Kimnell) is less than pleased. What follows is a hilarious and touching scene as these three ordinary people attempt to navigate their feelings, their grief, and the arrival of the post. A beautifully written scene,
with wonderful one-liners, Come Die With Me gives us utterly believable relationships trying to make light of an incredibly trying situation.
Pieces has managed to achieve an equitable split of gender in both the writing, directing and acting team. It’s a joy to see some new writing that isn’t all about men and women’s relationship to them. This, and the fact that the writing, acting and direction were by turns fantastic, means I for one am very excited to see what Pieces brings us in its next instalment, and from judging the audience response on the night, I doubt I am alone in this.
Review by Amy Stow
Karman Theatre presents PIECES; a new writing night dedicated to the work of blossoming writers, actors and directors.
Four enrapturing new plays, brought to life by an enviable team of creatives.
Wing Wah by Aaron Douglas, directed by Hannah De Ville
Soft Animals by Holly Robinson, directed by Georgie Staight
Mr. Pottle’s Revenge by Roy Proctor, directed by Rosa Crompton
Come Die With Me by Vicki Connerty, directed by Christopher Adams