I always get a sense of real excitement when I’m invited to go and see an evening of new writing, acting and directing, especially when I am presented with a series of one-act plays and can see the potential for one or more of them to be expanded into a full-length piece of theatre. This was definitely true last night when I visited Clapham’s Bread & Roses Theatre to see Spiral an evening consisting of seven short plays covering a wide spectrum of subjects.
The evening kicked off with Andrew Wormald’s Boys and the Baize, directed by Samson Hawkins. The story concerns a film being made by two brothers – Chris (Owen Warner) and Ed (Daniel McCaully) – ostensibly about the first openly gay snooker player, Harry Thompson (Tomm Melody). However, as the film gets made, Chris and Ed realise that they may have some issues of their own to sort out. A nice, gentle play to start the evening and Andrew has really managed to get behind the tensions that often exist in families and which come out – if you’ll pardon the pun – due to the introduction of a third person or unexpected situation. I really enjoyed this and could easily see Boys and the Blaize being worked up into a full-length one-act play.
Next up, the very intense There but for the Grace of God written by Milly Thomas and directed by Lara Genovese. This powerful piece looked at the relationship between Rob (James Kitchen) and Jenny (Rebecca Rayne). When I say relationship, then I’m using the wrong word as, during a party, Rob abused Jenny and is now facing the fallout of his actions. I really have to commend every aspect of this play. The writing and direction were first class and the actors were amazing. From where I was sitting, pretty close to the stage, I could see all the emotional impact that the conversation between the two of them had and was really moved at how vividly they portrayed these characters. Bravo to everyone concerned.
The third offering, Out of Touch by Joseph Charlton, directed by Olivia Collinge Gawn was different again and threw me a bit as I thought it was going to go a certain way and it didn’t. The story concerned relationships and specifically that of Rich (Matthew Frener). Instead of following a standard linear narrative, Joseph started with today and worked backwards. So we saw Rich with current boyfriend Tristan (Connor Mayes), former partner Jarrod (Tristram Kimbrough and BFF Janey (Sophie Kisilevsky), each small scene revealing more about Rich’s personality. Out of Touch was another that I could definitely see being expanded into something bigger.
To finish off the first half, we had Caitlin Middleton’s Auntie Alfie, directed by Jessica Lazar. An intriguing piece in so many ways, the Auntie Alfie (Adam Parkinson) of the title appears to be an invisible friend of Katy (Rachel Fenwick). Now most invisible friends are very supportive and have your best interests at heart – or is that just me? – but Auntie Alfie is the complete opposite and seems hell bent on destroying Katy’s life. A fascinating play, extremely well written that could be interpreted in so many ways. To my way of thinking, we were looking at the early onset of schizophrenia with a dash of agoraphobia added into the mix. But it could also be viewed as simply Katy voicing her inner insecurities and finding it difficult to overcome them. I think this is one where a lot of post show discussion could be generated.
Following the interval, we were welcomed back by Jonathan Skinner’s Buff directed by Ellie Gauge. An unconventional take on body objectification, Buff tells the story of Holly (Leanne Pettit) and Martin (Alasdair James McLaughlin discussing the use of semi-aked models in daily newspapers. Nicely written and well acted, Buff contains some interesting ideas – including my favourite moment where it was explained that most people are average otherwise there wouldn’t be an average – which was brilliant. A really enjoyable piece.
The penultimate piece, Rab Green’s Brought to Mind directed by Richard Elson, was a bit of a conundrum to me. As Chris (Gareth Watkins) sits on a bus he dreams – or does he? – of an encounter with a school friend. His dream takes the form or words spoken aloud that attracts the attention of another bus passenger – or is he? – called Andrew (Matthew Fennon). The writing is beautiful and the delivery by both actors is sublime. I think my problem was I kept changing my mind as to what was happening. What was real and what was Chris’s dream or fantasy? And if things were real then how much of it was. Really fascinating and thought-provoking piece.
Finally, ending the night in fine style, was Dick Curran’s Hospital Chapel at 6am directed by Kevin Russell. The story takes place in a hospital chapel where Davie (Myles Devonté) is taking time to talk to God. Davie’s brother Gavin (Andre Skeete) joins him, and we find out why Davie is there and what he is asking God and his big brother to do. I really don’t want to give too much away but Hospital Chapel at 6am is such a powerful play. Exploring the theme of lost innocence, this play totally blew me away in its superb writing and presentation by the two actors. A fine end to the night’s entertainment.
Spiral was presented by Free Rayne Artists and the standard of work – writing, directing and acting – was really good throughout the seven plays. None of them were bad and one or two were truly amazing with the ability to be developed further. My one criticism of the night is that having been to a few of these things, I think there should have been a compère, just to keep the audience going in between as the – actually fast and very efficient – scene changes occurred. This is a fairly minor point and should not detract from the fact that as long as there are writers, directors and actors like these, the future of good theatre is assured. Well done to everybody involved in putting on such a great evening.
Review by Terry Eastham
After a SOLD OUT show and 4* Reviews, Free Rayne Artists are proud to present ‘Spiral’: a night of 8 new short plays by up and coming playwrights, directors and actors. Prepare to be taken on 8 thrilling journeys by some of London’s finest new talent.
Bread and Roses Theatre
68 Clapham Manor Street, Clapham SW4 6DZ, London
16th to 18th October 2016