Last night was the launch of Face To Face 2014, Voices from the Edge at the Lost Theatre. At the launch we were treated to extracts from 6 of the 45 solo performances that will be being performed over the 6 evenings of the actual festival, and I have to say, based on what I saw, theatregoers are going to be in for a real feast of entertainment.
We started, as the festival itself does, with “Adult Child/Dead Child” which was performed by 6 very diverse actors telling a story of one child looking back on their life. Or was it? That’s the nub for me. Because yes, it was one story, but the way it was translated gave me a feeling of linkage between the many, many children that must have gone through similar experiences. Beautiful writing by Claire Dowie managed to find humour in the horror as we heard and, possibly in some respects, identified with, parental power at its worst. A very moving piece.
Next up, and a complete change of pace, was “Meal Ticket” written and performed by gemskii who, in a cheerleaders costume bounced onto the stage and explained what a ‘meal ticket’ actually was. There was some absolutely wonderful ad-libbed interactions with the audience during this piece and gemskii managed to perfectly encapsulate everything that a cheerleader is: loud, over-enthusiastic, not too bright, irritating, etc. But then, there would be a change and a different, very different, voice would come out of her questioning the story she was telling. Was this her conscience talking? Or was there a therapist out of sight asking these, probing for the truth? I honestly don’t know and in some ways it didn’t matter as slowly the ‘cheerleader’ moved from her fantasy world to reality. We only got as far as the letter “L” in meal ticket and I was really left wanting to know more.
If you’re a Dr Who fan, or even if you’re not but know somebody who is, you have to see the “The Pyramids of Margate” – admit it, some of you already recognise the reference in the title. This lovely piece, written and produced by Martin Stewart, revolves around a night out with the folks from work in a local pub. Martin’s character is the office nerd (sorry Martin). A man with a Dr Who mug – incidentally I really want to get one like his – and an intricate knowledge of all things “Who” which he tries to put to use in his effort to overcome his social awkwardness and finally help him to find the lady of his dreams. I’m not going to go into details, but this was such a well observed piece of writing – anyone that feels themselves to be shy or not great at socialising will identify with it. Superbly acted, this was my favourite piece of the night and, I believe, no ferrets were actually injured in the course of the production.
Peta Lily’s “Imperfection” was next. Now, I have to be truthful and say that, on the whole I’m not a great fan of poetry. But that is one of the beauties of a festival such as this, there will be something for everyone. So, this didn’t really work for me – philistine that I am – but I could tell it was very well written and performed and certainly, the audience around me seemed to really enjoy it.
Moving to the next piece “Betty has to Go Now” From the moment writer/performer Deirdre Strath came on to the stage looking very much like a typical 1950s Stepford Wife and humming the theme tune to something – it was so familiar I hummed along but can’t for the life of me remember the show – I knew we were in for a treat. Deirdre started out so nice. Cocktail in one hand and Betty Crocker cookbook in the other, she explained her fascination, and reverence for the “Queen of American Cooking.” Then, she came and sat in the audience, giving out cakes as she went and the truth about Betty emerged. Call me naïve but I was genuinely shocked and stunned at the revelation before me. A truly amazing piece of theatre but Deirdre. I will never forgive you!
Finally, ending our taster session, we had 2009 Young Busker of the Year award winner Jamie West and a truly awesome rendition of “The Fall of The House of Usher”. Jamie is a very talented performer with a really amazing voice. He kept me spell-bound for entire duration of his performance and was a wonderful ending to the launch.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay for what sounds like the most intriguing part of the festival “Private Vies/One to One” described as solo shows for audiences of one but it sounds amazing and when I go back for the actual festival in October I will definitely be partaking.
This looks like its going to be a really great festival and I am already booking my tickets for it. One word of caution though. Whilst the auditorium at the Lost Theatre is an amazing space, the bar and foyer area is quite small so get there early to ensure you get a drink.
Review by Terry Eastham
Third Face to Face Festival of Solo Theatre – Voices from the Edge
October 6th to 11th at Lost Theatre
Friday 5th September 2014