Seeing work by new theatre companies is always exciting. So I was happy to head off to Styx, the new home of Theatre N16, to see 143, the first production by Tiny Theatre Company.
The numbers here refer to 1 writer (Isabelle Stokes), 4 actors (Olivia May Roebuck, Alexandra Brailsford, Aizaac Sidhu and Danny Merrill) and 3 plays. The first of which was Pearl with Alexandra and Danny as Ava and Daniel respectively.
Two young people who meet through a friend of a friend and somehow hit it off, despite Ava’s intense dislike of Daniel – not to mention his reputation of which he seems inordinately proud. Told as a series of inner monologues being shared with the audience, we follow their relationship from its very shaky beginnings through to the realities of living together and the fears that can become overwhelming when two people are together. The couple are not really suited, Ava is practical and logical, whilst Danny is a bit of a dreamer who always hopes that problems will sort themselves out somehow. The only real thing they share is their love for each other or, as Danny rather eloquently puts it ‘This is the pearl, everything else is the oyster’. But will that be enough for them to survive?
After Pearl, things got a bit deeper and more political with Bloody Hands in which Alexandra plays Becky a young girl who is moving into a deserted bank being taken over by a group of homeless people. Becky is rather naive but luckily meets another more experienced and street-wise girl (Olivia) who shows her the ropes and takes her through the practicality of living her new life. With the other girl’s help, Becky might just get through.
The evening finished with Cold Chips, in which we get to meet best mates Ryan (Aizaac) and Ella (Olivia) who meet up at least once a week to sit on a bench and put the world to right. They are both twenty-somethings but with very different outlooks on life. Ryan is a fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy, terrified of his father and drifting along in a random fashion from job to job. Ella is much more sensible and practical, having been soundly bought up by her mother Jane who was always full of good advice “split your wages three ways, and always save a third’. However, Ryan and Ella are such total BFFs that they can have a blazing row, saying what would normally be unforgivable things to each other and then five minutes later be sharing their chips once more. It’s just a shame that Ryan can’t settle down and Ella has trouble finding love. You have to wonder what Janes advice would be to the two of them.
Three very different plays by one extremely talented writer. All three were directed by Katie Turner and she really brought out the best in the writing and acting capabilities of the cast to get all three over so well. All four of the cast were great, and I was particularly impressed with Olivia and Alexandra in each taking on two very different roles for their two plays.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t that keen on Bloody Hands. I liked the story but was left firstly wondering about Becky’s back-story – how she had got into the position she was in. Secondly, whilst I have nothing against political plays, I prefer them slightly more subtle than being shouted at. While the intentions were good, the message was rather pushed in our faces.
Having said that, I really did enjoy both Pearl and Cold Chips. Not only did both stories have nicely developed characters, but they both did a nice job of highlighting the problems faced by the next generation in getting work and on the housing ladder. I also thought these two plays had the best writing. Isabelle really knows how to turn a phrase and some, such as the pearl one above and the definition of love over lust – using a beautiful boat and oar metaphor – really struck a chord with me on an emotional level. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll find someone to ‘row’ for me as well.
Overall, Tiny Theatre Company put on a really well-written and presented evening that was entertaining and kept the eyes and minds of the audience glued to the stage. I did have a slight issue with the gap between plays – 10 minutes can feel a lot longer when you are sat in the audience – but that was a minor point and ‘Tiny’ they may be but Tiny Theatre Company really did something huge with 143 and I can’t wait to see their next production.
Pearl’ explores a modern relationship; its anxieties and complexities. We see ‘Ava’ and ‘Daniel’ share these through their inner thoughts. Whereas ‘Bloody Hands’ tackles political issues and homelessness in the UK through the story of two young girls with contrasting personalities. ‘Cold Chips’ tells a story of friendship between ‘Ryan’ and ‘Ella’, two young adults finding a way to move on to the next stage in their lives and trying to figure it all out together.