Like most reviewers, I like to think I can write a bit but, could I write a short one scene play that can grab an audience’s attention and make them care about my characters and the story I want to tell in less than 20 minutes? Got to be honest, given how much I waffle on the answer is probably not but that was the conundrum faced by the eight playwrights at the Waterloo East Theatre last night as the West Avenue Theatre Company (http://www.west-avenue.co.uk/) presented “Briefs” the latest in its quarterly new writing nights.
This showcase of new talent was a wonderful example of the importance of fringe and off-west end theatres giving up and coming writers, directors and actors an opportunity to show off their talents to a larger audience than normal. Each playlet was very different in concept and presentation and so without further ado, let’s delve into the show.
First up was “Spanx” written by Natalie Lester, which was a very funny story about the realities of Internet dating, the perfidy of men, or one in particular (Sam Saunders) and the loyalty of two women sharing an apartment (Natalie Lester and Rebecca Bentham). It also demonstrates the fact that lazing around in a Superman onesie, lip-syncing to Ru Paul’s Drag Race is not necessarily the best way to spend your evening. A lovely play that quickly established its characters in a very believable and highly comedic situation that many of us will easily recognise
“The Third Nine” by Shaun Kitchener starred Roseanna Morris as a single woman, alone in her bed who is woken up by a mysterious sound and unlike sensible people like me decides not to hide under the duvet and hope it goes away but instead go and investigate. A really nice monologue delivered very effectively by Roseanna, “The Third Nine” would for the most part be familiar to anyone that has ever wandered through their home in the dead of night looking for a phantom sound. In this case, the sound is neither phantom nor what anyone expected and the consequences of the discovery of its source leads to complications for all concerned.
“Chugging for Kittens” by Angela Clarke was a story set in leafy Milton Keynes where highly focussed Roger (Jack Gogarty) leads his team of one, the very mousy Tina (Sophie Mackenzie) collecting money for a cat’s charity. Unfortunately Roger is a real David Brent type character who dominates Tina until a new member of the team – Agne (Claira Watson Parr) – joins them and despite Roger’s pep talk manages to upset the dynamic of the group and leads Tina telling Roger her own little secret.
Finishing off the first act was “Sex and Pyjamas” by James Robert-Moore. Its Sunday morning and Simon (James Robert Moore) sneaks out of bed to make breakfast for Matthew (James Meryk) who is not too pleased to see him there. After all, a quick roll in the hay is meant to end with one of the parties heading back to their own home, not being there in the morning making eggs and soldiers. “Sex and Pyjamas” is a wonderful play that resonates with many people in the audience as the story of Simon and Matthew unfolds to reveal the strengths, weaknesses and insecurities of these two boys who may possibly have inadvertently started up some form of relationship but then again they may not.
The second act started with what was undoubtedly my favourite piece of the evening “A Short Play About W……” by Beth Crane. Unfortunately, due to its subject matter I can’t really say that much in detail but it involves a woman by the name of Lindsay (Francesca Meaby) who has a very powerful imagination. In fact her mind is so strong that her fantasies – Roxxy (Amy Cornwall) and Fabio (Timothy George) do things they are not supposed to at the worst possible time for Lindsay. Suffice to say, this short piece was hilarious and could probably form the basis of a lot of people’s worst nightmare.
“My Heart Bleeds” by Martin Dwyer was a distinct change of pace from the previous offering. Revolving around a couple – Mark (Matthew Cosgrove) and Simon (Matt Tedford) – who have decided to spice up their sex lives with the addition of a third – cute twink boy Tom (Christopher Cohen). Due to some, let’s not beat about the bush, rather uncontrolled use of teeth, the fun and games have had to stop for a while and the two men take some time to get to know their guest – even finding out his name. This leads to some interesting revelations from Tom about the reasons he goes with random and his plans/fears for the future when/if he meets Mr Right. In an unexpected twist, Mark sets Tom an interesting test about his feelings which I have to admit, left me wondering about my own life and approach to certain areas.
Our penultimate production was “M&S” by Roberta Morris where ex-partners/flatmates Mike (Shaun Kitchener) and Stacy (Roberta Morris) gave a lovely demonstration of the awkwardness that occurs when people split up and want to reassure their ex (and probably themselves) that not only was the split a good thing, they have come out of it so much better than the other one. Come on, we’ve all been there haven’t we? That time when we are not stalking an ex on Facebook or getting friends to keep an eye on them in the local pub – it’s just taking an interest in an old friend, honest.
Finally then, the evening ended with “The Party Playlist” by James Callas Ball. Three flatmates (Eliot Ruocco-Trenouth, Amy Leighton & Ben Egan) are celebrating a birthday. The boys are fighting over the party playlist. Or are they? Is there a deeper undercurrent playing here? And what has each of them got planned for 11pm as a special treat for their female flatmate?
Anything that encourages the next generation of thespians – playwrights, directors and actors – should be supported wholeheartedly by the theatre going public “Briefs” is just such an event. One evening and eight short stories covering a wealth of subjects and emotions makes for a really great night out for everyone.
By Terry Eastham
Briefs at Waterloo East Theatre
Thursday 30th April 2015