From the 3rd to the 11th of August the Orange Tree Theatre are showing four productions from emerging directors who have been studying on the Orange Tree and St Mary’s University MA Theatre Directing Course.
Last night I saw two of these productions: Pilgrims by Elinor Cook, directed by Ellie Goodall and Sadness and Joy in the Life of Giraffes by Tiago Rodrigues, directed by Wiebke Green.
Pilgrims is about two mountaineers Will (Nicholas Armfield) and Dan (Luke MacGregor) and Rachel (Adeyinka Akinrinade) the woman they both fall in love with. Will and Dan climbed Everest when they were just 18 years old and their achievement gave them their 15 minutes of fame. Rachel is studying folklore, her Ph.D. thesis is about men like Will and Dan and their desire to climb and overcome difficulties together. Rachel falls for the dashing Will first but later moves on to have a long term relationship with the more introverted Dan. We know from the beginning that Will and Dan’s latest climb is not going well, they have taken the wrong path and argue about whether they should press on, or instead give up and turn back. Will appears to be beyond help and Rachel is begging Dan to save himself, to take Will’s jacket as he doesn’t need it anymore. Except she’s not really there is she? She has been left behind like countless women left behind waving to their men.
I found the sound effects of wind swirling around the mountain peaks a bit overpowering; I sometimes struggled to hear what Rachel was saying. This was a shame as when the noise levels dropped Adeyinka Akinrinade’s lines were beautifully delivered and I found her part the most fascinating of the three. The play is acted out along a non-linear timeline, jumping backwards and forwards in time, with the three characters relationships gradually being revealed. At the play’s beginning all three harbour great ambitions, but gradually give them up during the course of the play for what they ostensibly believe to be sound and justifiable grounds. Ellie Goodall has realised this play beautifully, the pace and pitch are just right.
The second play of the evening is Sadness and Joy in the life of Giraffes. I wonder why Wiebke Green chose this play, or maybe she had no choice. I found it to be one of the least enjoyable plays I have ever attended. Eve Ponsonby is endearingly sweet as nine-year-old Giraffe and I enjoyed all the interaction with her unemployed father (Gyuri Sarossy) who also plays the parts of all the other characters that Giraffe comes across as she goes about her quest to get enough money to pay for the Discovery Channel. I just wish the play had been left as a two-hander as Giraffe’s Teddy Bear, named Judy Garland added nothing to the play. It was somewhat unsettling to see this supposedly nine-year-old girl in bed and being fondled by a man dressed as a teddy bear. Almost all Judy Garland’s words are swear words and really do not add anything to the story.
This was a disappointing end to the festival, the highlight for me being The Mikvah Project which seems a long time ago now.
**** for Pilgrims and ** for Sadness and Joy in the Life of Giraffes.
Review by Sally Knipe
by Elinor Cook
Directed by Ellie Goodall
Cast Adeyinka Akinrinade, Nicholas Armfield and Luke MacGregor
Mon 5 Aug & Fri 9 Aug 9pm | Wed 7 Aug at 7pm | Sun 11 Aug 4pm
There’s always a man.
Going off to war, in a ship.
In a uniform.
And there’s a woman, often called Nancy.
Nancy is on the dock, looking nice, waving a handkerchief.
And she says, hang on, can’t I just come with you?
Rachel wants to write about folk songs and war and women, especially their urge to escape.
Will and Dan are mountain climbers, adventurers, conquering peak after peak.
A tale about love, adventure and betrayal. But how are stories told, and whose version is remembered?
SADNESS AND JOY IN THE LIFE OF GIRAFFES
by Tiago Rodrigues
Translated by Mark O’Thomas
Directed by Wiebke Green
Cast Eve Ponsonby, Gyuri Sarossy and Nathan Welsh
Mon 5 & Fri 9 Aug 7pm | Wed 7 Aug 9pm | Sun 11 Aug 6pm
This is the sound of my voice in the bathroom.
This is the sound of a decision in the bathroom.
Giraffe is nine years, one month and twelve days old but she’s unusually tall for her age. Her Dad can no longer afford the Discovery Channel, so she sets out on a quest to find the money herself. Accompanied by her suicidal teddy bear Judy Garland, this unstoppable duo adventure out to solve the problems grown-ups can’t.
This is the sound of opportunity.
In a city worn down by austerity politics, this UK premiere charts one girl’s heroic journey through a chaotic adult world.
Orange Tree Theatre, 1 Clarence Street, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 2SA