A series of six short plays make up Scene To Seen – watching them all in a row is a little like attending one of those ‘scratch nights’ or evenings of works in progress. Except the production values here are very high quality, and go far beyond what has become, if I may use the term, the ‘new normal’ in online productions, with an actor sat talking straight to the camera. There’s some of that as well, of course, but at least one scene was filmed outdoors on location.
Permanent Scar by Rachel Flynn is one of those stories that ends leaving the viewer wanting to know more. A young man (Cameron Fulton) describes his friendship with an unnamed woman – the long and the short of it is that while he wanted to go further and pursue a relationship with her, the feeling wasn’t mutual. But this only became properly evident to him in the aftermath of a kiss one night. The story is well-paced and unhurried despite its brevity, and it is something of a relief that he finds solace at the play’s end in music (as opposed to drinking or gambling to excess, for instance). Still, what then happens to him as well as his love interest is left for the audience to determine – my own inclination is that they’ll both be fine, and there are plenty more fish in the sea.
Cinderella Complex by Kirsty May Hamilton sees Hamilton as ‘Principal Girl’ and plays on the idea that most if not all pantos have similar plot trajectories. It incorporates the restrictions placed on the coronavirus lockdown into the storyline brilliantly: this is very much a fairy-tale story for 2020, complete with the inability of the Principal Girl to even contact the Fairy Godmother because demand is outstripping availability. As Hamilton is playing all the various roles, furlough is cited as a reason for Snow White not having any dwarves at all in sight. But the Principal Girl still needs to be rescued by Prince Charming. It’s already a cliché, but I’ll say it anyway: unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. “It’s 2020, it’s time for change, for independence,” she asserts, sounding like the SNP’s Ian Blackford MP in the House of Commons. Filmed in Hamilton’s hometown in the Scottish Highlands, the scenery is far more gorgeous and stunning than any set could be in the theatre.
After The Beep by Isla Robertson is riveting stuff, though the character we see, Claire (Helen Mackay) doesn’t actually say a word. Instead, it’s Gary (James Rottger) who leaves a long voicemail message. They had a son together ten years ago and now Gary would like to meet the child. The circumstances under which their child came about would be of public interest if Gary chose to pursue his paternal rights through the courts. But then Gary apologises for even having made the call, and at one point suggests Claire should forget he bothered to do so. Claire is left an emotional wreck by the end, and while it is no surprise that the audience is left guessing as to whether she saves the message, deletes it, or returns the call, the scene is a startling reminder that actions have consequences.
Aye, Miss by Benjamin Storey is an attempt at home-schooling during the pandemic, with hilarious results. Callum (Jordan Cramond) and his mother (Karen Bartke) are in a French lesson in their front room, though it transpires (slightly predictably) that Callum’s command of French is superior to that of his mother/teacher. His boredom at the rudimentary nature of the lesson leads him to fidget, play with electronic gadgets, and answer back, such that ‘Mrs Miller’ orders him out of the ‘classroom’. Her sanction of ‘detention and a letter home’ had me in stitches – how does one enforce a detention when there’s a Government-mandated stay-at-home order in place because of you-know-what in the first place? And, as Callum points out, is she really going to write a letter to herself? A later heart-to-heart talk between the two brings home (so to speak) the harsh realities of living in lockdown, though the humorous nature of the play is thankfully maintained to the very end.
Body Issues by Isla Robertson is as disturbing as it is awkward as it is amusing. DI MacIntosh (Nicola Ferguson) had a dry sense of humour when interviewing Gary (James Rottger) – is this the same ‘Gary’ from After The Deep? It is a pity, alas, that a direct quote of one of DI MacIntosh’s quips would be giving a bit too much plot away. The production team must have had a lot of fun making the scenes that accompany the interview, though I wouldn’t want to have been the person assigned to clean the mess up afterwards. Gary gets home late one evening – by ‘late’, we’re talking around midnight – and knocks over the recycling on his way into the flat proper. One unfortunate mishap after another eventually lands him in trouble with the cops, but while his story, whilst absurd, is accepted, a final question from the detective inspector might not be as easy to explain away. A very well constructed and intriguing play.
Finally, No Hero by Rachel Flynn is a reflection on the most severe part of lockdown, signified by the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’ at 8:00pm on a Thursday evening for ten consecutive weeks. Amy Dawson plays an unnamed key worker whose personal circumstances lead her to seriously and reflectively question whether she should be classed as a ‘hero’ along with NHS workers, social care workers, supermarket staff and so on. This goes beyond typical British self-deprecation and bashfulness. The pandemic has had many consequences, including the increase of domestic violence – there are absorbing if harrowing thoughts on the need to self-isolate balanced against the need to protect the vulnerable.
With the longest of these short plays running at just over twelve minutes, the collection is manageable for all but the most time-pressured, and is well worth watching.
Review by Chris Omaweng
EPISODE 1: PERMANENT SCAR by Rachel Flynn
Starring Cameron Fulton (River City, Limbo)
“We’ve all been there, right? That one person that’s like an electric shock to your insides…”
EPISODE 2: CINDERELLA COMPLEX
Written by & starring Kirsty May Hamilton (REPLICA)
With no handsome prince coming to her rescue, what is a Principal Girl to do in Loch Doon?
EPISODE 3: AFTER THE BEEP by Isla Robertson
Starring Helen Mackay (Miss Julie, Perth Theatre; DCI Banks) & James Rottger (Celtic The Musical; Gary Tank Commander)
You have one new voicemail, from the last person you’d ever expect… Press 1 to repeat, 2 to save, 3 to return the call or 4 to delete.
EPISODE 4: AYE, MISS by Benjamin Storey
Starring Karen Bartke (Scot Squad) & Jordan Cramons (The Demon Headmaster) Homeschooling in lockdown reaches breaking point when Mrs Miller attemps to teach her son French.
EPISODE 5: BODY ISSUES by Isla Robertson
Starring James Rottger & Nicola Ferguson (BBC Radio Drama Company)
Glitter, confetti, whipped cream with a cherry on top. There really is an innocent explanation…
EPISODE 6: NO HERO by Rachel Flynn
Starring Amy Dawson (Current RCS student BSL/English)
Not all Heroes wear capes…