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Inside – Orange Tree Theatre | Review

Yes, it’s more monologues and duologues in lockdown, but Inside serves as a useful reminder that there are as many different stories out there as there are people. There are commonalities – in all of the short plays in this particular trilogy, there’s something almost instantly recognisable. In Guidesky and I, it’s the delivery from an online retailer that bears no resemblance to what was ordered. In When The Daffodils, it’s the urge to want to resume aspects of pre-pandemic life, whatever the various rules and guidelines may or may not be. In Ursa Major, it’s the self-service checkout that complains because there’s an unexpected item in the bagging area, instructing the customer to remove the unexpected item, only to complain again because the item has been removed from the bagging area, and should be replaced.

Jessica Murrain and Ishia Bennison in Inside - WHEN THE DAFFODILS - photo Ali Wright.
Jessica Murrain and Ishia Bennison in Inside – WHEN THE DAFFODILS – photo Ali Wright.

But there are also very unique circumstances in each of the plays. Diana Harris (Samantha Spiro) finds herself in an exchange of emails with ‘Guidesky 125’, an online outlet that, Harris discovers after her own order was poorly dealt with, has many more negative reviews online than positive ones. It’s not the most expensive item, but it seems to be another problem on top of everything else she is having to deal with: what starts off as a straightforward refund request becomes both hilarious and despairing to watch. One of the problems with doing your own thing during lockdown is (as I have myself discovered) there isn’t anyone to tell you to get a grip and stop majoring on the minor. There’s much to be enjoyed here, as Harris’ innermost thoughts are spoken out loud.

Later, Meg (Ishia Bennison) asks Samia (Jessica Murrain) to do something tantamount to a stackable offence. Here too, there’s more than an element of sympathy, not least because Meg is an older person who has Samia as her regular social care worker and doesn’t appear to see anyone else at all as she is shielding. Whether her rather absurd sayings and suggestions are the result of dementia or not being in the right frame of mind due to the stresses and strains of lockdown, or indeed both, isn’t clear, but When The Daffodils strongly suggests, albeit with some subtlety, that a mental health pandemic is going on alongside Covid-19.

Perhaps the most intriguing play in this production is Ursa Major. Jay (Fisayo Akinade) is a research fellow at University College London. He meets Callisto (Sasha Winslow) outside a supermarket, and she has led an unusual life. The play is a little contrived, but the narrative allows the audience to really get to know both characters. “You’ll be okay. You’re gonna be okay,” Cally (as she prefers to be known) tells Jay, reassurance that many (including yours truly) could do with in these still uncertain times.

It may not be a strange feeling to sit back and enjoy a show, forgetting about everything going on in the world, but it is when the show is about everything going on in the world. A sense of urgency and vibrancy permeates this set of thoughtful and highly perceptive short plays.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Inside/Outside, a collection of world premiere short plays by emerging and established writers.
Anna Himali Howard directs Samantha Spiro (Diana) in Guidesky and I by Deborah Bruce, Ishia Bennison (Meg) and Jessica Murrain (Samia) in When the Daffodils by Joel Tan, and Fisayo Akinade (Jay) and Sasha Winslow (Callisto) in Ursa Major by Joe White. Inside will be performed and livestreamed from the Orange Tree Theatre’s auditorium, 25-27 March.

Inside looks at the lives of three women forgotten by the world, but not by themselves. Outside will be streamed live 15 – 17 April.

The Inside/Outside series is curated by OT Literary Associate Guy Jones. Inside/Outside is part of OT On Screen, the Orange Tree Theatre’s digital project launched in January 2020 with Maya Arad Yasur’s play Amsterdam, watched by over 25,000 people worldwide. The productions, filmed in collaboration with The Umbrella Rooms, mark the company’s first live-streamed project, and the first live performances at the Orange Tree Theatre since lockdown began on 16 March 2020.

GUIDESKY AND I
by Deborah Bruce
Being scammed on the internet is just the start of an isolating experience for Diana as she has to confront a threatening world.

WHEN THE DAFFODILS
by Joel Tan
Meg is alone in her flat, relying on the care and kindness of Samia. She’s had enough of her four walls and wants to escape, but the world outside has rules of its own.

URSA MAJOR
by Joe White
Two strangers learn that they can help one another move forwards in Joe White’s Ursa Major.

INSIDE/OUTSIDE
Box Office: 020 8940 3633
orangetreetheatre.co.uk

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