A totally delightful and unusual evening!
Craig Taylor is a Canadian who began ‘overhearing’ people’s conversations when he worked in a hardware store. He wrote some of them down, and continued doing this when he moved to London. Eventually they began to be published in The Guardian magazine and were so popular that he took 95 of them and published them in book form.
Laura Keefe, the director, has taken 30 of them, both duologues and monologues, and made them into an entertainment first shown at the Watermill Theatre and now at Jermyn Street. These vignettes take place all over the United Kingdom, and involve two actors playing about 25 roles each, using different regional accents and changing costume, props and sex at speed.
A couple peer into an estate agent’s window, two sports fans have a heart to heart in the gents’ loo, a father helps his son remove his football boots as he realises they are growing apart, a daughter has questions about her mother’s love life etc. Some are laugh out loud funny, others poignant: all capture a moment of everyday life in Britain.
My favourite sketch was a monologue acted by Alec Nicholls, where his mother, whom he clearly rarely sees, is on the other end of the telephone conversation, which consists, as far as he is concerned, of just saying ‘YES’ many, times and in many various ways. Very funny yet heartbreakingly moving. This actor is able to switch characters immediately, often without changing costume, both male and female, occasionally by the addition of a wig.
His partner, Emma Barclay, has a very expressive, mobile, face, relying less on changing wigs than on facial expression. She is particularly amusing in those scenes which involve her playing children. I enjoyed her ‘Superman’ sketch most of all! Both have tremendous energy but make everything seem effortless and fun!
The director has chosen Bingo as the connecting thread, a large lit bingo card on the rear of the imaginative set (Ceci Calf) telling us the numbers of the various sketches we are seeing, and a bingo session with the audience participating starting the second half of the evening – one member winning a valuable prize each night! She is also responsible for the simple yet telling costume designs, the actors starting each half of the show wearing a lot and gradually disrobing!
Recommended as ideal festive entertainment and as antidote to both Brexit and elections – neither of which is mentioned once!
Review by John Groves
This December Jermyn Street Theatre stages One Million Tiny Plays About Britain by Craig Taylor. This heartwarming collage of scenes about twenty-first century life stars Emma Barclay (A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth – Watermill Theatre Ensemble, Babe the Sheep-Pig – Polka Theatre, Honk! – UK Tour) and Alec Nichols (Alcatraz – Vault Festival, Catalyst – North Wall Theatre, Broadchurch – ITV). The production is directed by Laura Keefe and was originally staged at The Watermill Theatre where it will be returning for a three week run at the end of January 2020.
Originally published as a series of short sketches in The Guardian, One Million Tiny Plays About Britain captures everyday life in our nation with humour, pathos and perfect timing. Laugh-out-loud funny, and sometimes heartbreakingly moving, these tiny plays provide a glimpse into other people’s lives, revealing the triumphs, disasters, prejudices, horrors and joys familiar to us all.
ONE MILLION TINY PLAYS ABOUT BRITAIN
By Craig Taylor
Directed by Laura Keefe
Set and Costume Design by Ceci Calf
Sound Design by Harry Linden Johnson
JERMYN STREET THEATRE
16B Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6ST
Wednesday 4th December to Saturday 11th January