Once again, it was time to dive headlong into the online performing world as Encompass Productions’ Liam Fleming brought another selection of short stories to the internet with Bare E-ssentials 3: with a Vengeance.
The evening started with RULES by Lucy Jamieson, directed by Rachael Owens.
Oh, it’s a nightmare when words sound similar. Alex (Esme Cooper) has been to the doctor with a water infection. The doctor prescribes tablets for cystitis, but she mishears and has been telling people she has syphilis. Her flatmate Jess (Karina Holness) sorts out the linguistic mistake but points out Alex only seems to get these issues when she has sex. Jess pushes Alex to give her details, something that her friend seems reluctant to share. Eventually, Alex spills the beans so to speak, much to the absolute horror of Jess.
Sometimes there are things that flatmates should not do or know about each other. Jess’s reaction to Alex’s news is understandable but in some respects. Despite the subject of the play, there is a lot of really laugh-out-loud humour in Rules which is great as there is a potential for the subject matter to get very heavy. The writing is fun, though for two girls who are so close, they are surprisingly shy when talking about sexual things. Karina and Esme are very relaxed in each other’s company and there is a genuine flat-mate vibe about them, that suggests whatever happens, and how many of their own rules they break, they will be BFFs.
The second piece was a monologue STONES AROUND MY NECK by Emma Dawson, directed by Kay la Feldman.
Patty (Deborah Garvey) is a middle-aged woman who takes us through her life, and particularly the effect of her daughter Eadie on the men she had romantically been involved with. Basically, Eadie was jealous of any man that came near Patty, and even of her sister Emmy. Patty is led a merry dance by Eadie and this means she has no real energy for her husband or other daughter. Despite being aware of her daughter’s foibles, and the effect they have on her mother, the bond between them is so strong that patty cannot bring herself to kick out Eadie – even when she is an adult, and as a consequence, is a lonely woman while Eadie revels in having her mother to herself.
This is a sad story in many respects. It is impossible not to start off feeling sorry for Patty. However, the writing is such that Patty changes over the course of the narrative and, in some respects, turns into her daughter. Deborah Garvey has a lovely personality and accent. I’m not sure why, but that combination of really gave this story an extra level of believability meaning that Patty became a very real person for me.
This was followed by THE CHAIR by James C. Ferguson, directed by Jonathan Woodhouse.
Cole (Andrew Gruen) and Vanessa (Amy Fleming) are hosting a dinner party but while she is in the kitchen getting dessert, the guests leave. Vanessa is really upset and Cole is very hesitant to explain the situation. When he does, the explanation for the disappearance of the guests is greeted with major league scepticism by Vanessa.
The Chair is a very odd piece. Its central premise is, to the rational mind, completely ludicrous, but somehow, even when the actual truth comes out, it really works. I’m sure I was not the only person sitting in front of their PC laughing loudly. Andrew and Amy are a great married couple and, having seen all the shows now, The Chair is definitely my favourite of the night.
And finally, we had LISTEN by Jacquie Penrose, directed by Liam Fleming.
Another monologue to end the night, and this immediately had a real Blair Witch feeling to it as a woman (Amelia Parillon) sits in front of her phone, in the dark leaving a message for someone in her life. As she tells her story, there is a sense of urgency as her phone battery is low on charge. She talks about how she and the other person first met and her real surprise that they ever got together and stayed together and the person she turned into thanks to her overwhelming sense that she was not worthy to have this relationship. As the battery life counts down, the woman takes the, one day, viewer, deeper into her world and the things that she has done.
A very interesting piece that draws you in and then really holds your attention until the very, and I have to say, highly frustrating end. Jacquie Penrose has penned a story that drops the viewer into the middle. We have no idea why the woman seems to be hiding in the dark, recording her tale but we get to know, and in many ways, understand her in a way that is due to both the story and the captivating performance from Amelia.
So, once again Encompass have presented an enjoyable and very welcome distraction from the current lack of physical theatre. Four very different. well written and performed pieces go to show that there is nothing that can stop the creative processes and, in whatever form they can, the arts will always survive.
Review by Terry Eastham
New writing is back! Encompass Productions presents Bare E-ssentials 3: with a Vengeance, the (now!) award-winning online edition of London’s best-reviewed new writing night. Featuring live performances of short plays submitted from around the world, staged and streamed from isolation. Plays include:
Rules by Lucy Jamieson
Directed by Rachael Owens
Stones Around My Neck by Emma Dawson
Directed by Kayla Martell Feldman
The Chair by James C. Ferguson
Directed by Jonathan Woodhouse
Listen by Jacqui Penrose
Directed by Liam Fleming