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Voices From Home: Volume 3 at Theatre 503

Voices From Home: Volume 3The latest in a series of Voices From Home events, showcasing emerging talent from the South East, sees five short plays portraying modern life in contemporary society. Anatomy of a Victim by Rachel Tookey begins with the details of a death that took place on a Friday night in Cambridge in June 2002. It is asserted that the deceased vanished “into thin air”, which, spoken with just the right amount of pathos and curiosity by A (Abbi Douetil) and B (Ella Dorman-Gajic) made for a surprisingly amusing punchline. Various lines of enquiry are thought about, and as it turns out, the initial prime suspect looks less and less feasible as more information comes to light.

In what I assume is a separate scenario, Rebecca (Hatty Jones) is playing dead, which immediately concerns Sophie (also Abbi Douetil), a medical student. Rebecca suddenly awakes and chases her friend around the room, asserting that she’s not going to make a very good doctor if she can’t even tell if someone is breathing or not. But perhaps the two scenarios are connected after all, as Rebecca elects to spend more time with Sophie that evening rather than going out on a pre-arranged date. It feels as though it’s an extract of a longer play (irrespective of whether a longer script has been written yet) – as it is, it ends abruptly.

My Boys by Mark Daniels is set in Bexleyheath, and comes complete with references to how poor the rail service is between central London and south-east London/north-west Kent, which no doubt will resonate with those who use those commuter services. Pauline (Stacha Hicks) is (arguably stereotypically) busy with food preparation in the kitchen. ‘Long Live Len’, a large banner reads, under which her son Jamie (David Ellis) has written, ‘even tho [sic] he’s dead’, apparently so as not to confuse people. Pauline’s other son, Lenny (Steven Jeram), named after the deceased man of the house, was not on the best of terms with his father. The old man had what I can only describe as a self-inflicted allergy to homosexuality – when Lenny ‘came out’ to his parents, his father found it impossible to accept.

Thus, the play raises questions about how to respond to hostility (or if it is simply better to walk away) – Pauline is unhappy about Lenny’s seeming inability to have done more to reply to the older Len’s apology and offer of reconciliation. If I had to pick a favourite out of the evening’s performances, I’d go for this one, because of its thought-provoking and poignant nature.

Losers by Precious Alabi sees the (un)imaginatively named Her (Dominique Moutia) encounter Him (Andy Sellers) outside a nightclub. Him, dressed scruffily, strikes up a conversation with Her, almost immediately going into how her frustration over a break-up is a relatively minor issue vis-à-vis matters that affect society at large. It’s Halloween 2019, which (the play has assumed) also means the end of the line for Britain’s membership of the European Union. It’s an interesting piece of theatre, this one – it absolutely doesn’t, thankfully, spend much time discussing That Referendum, and one realises watching this story unfold that there is more that unites, say, Leavers and Remainers, than divides us.

My first time was in a parking lot by Phoebe Wood at least doesn’t deviate from its subject matter. Mira (Eleanor Grace) recollects what it was like to, as she kept telling her audience, lose her virginity in a parking lot – despite the British accent, always a ‘parking lot’ and never, ever a ‘car park’. It has some amusing moments, such as when her mother observed happened to notice she (Mira) was writhing on the bedroom floor in the middle of the night, before cagily remarking, “Sometimes smaller is better”. This piece of theatre about a young lady’s challenges presented in an engaging and relatable manner doesn’t offer much, if anything, that hasn’t been heard before. But it does remarkably well to maintain interest on a single topic in a showcase where the other featured plays seem to want to crowbar as many themes and topics in as is feasible.

Like and Subscribe by Rachel Causer was the most difficult play across the evening for me to connect with. Polly (Alanna Flynn) speaks with artificial exuberance to what she claims is a social media audience in the region of 400,000 people – though how many of those subscribers are bona fide humans and how many are fake accounts is another subject for another time. She has invited a long-standing friend Kas (Antonia Salib) over for a chat on what she calls Polly’s Positivity Pod.

Unfortunately for Kas (and for yours truly) the rules and regulations on Polly’s podcast are beyond ridiculous, stretching far beyond the phrase that used to be said on the UK version of the ‘Big Brother’ reality television series, “You are live on Channel Four, please do not swear.” If I were Kas, I would have walked away (but that would have meant an even shorter play). To be fair to Polly, she does openly recognise by the end that there are times when “positivity [on its own] just isn’t enough” to see a person through challenging circumstances. But the play doesn’t claim a Damascene conversion for Polly, and the intonations and inflections in her broadcasting voice remain. Perhaps certain habits are just very, very hard to break, and Polly’s ‘what about me?’ attitude made her quite dislikeable.

A very slick performance by all involved, and not a single (detectable) slip up or stumbling over lines, this was a reflective and absorbing evening. More, please.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Voices From Home is a curated festival of short plays and spoken word theatre, featuring the most exciting emerging writers from the South East.
Presented by multi-award-winning Brighton-based Broken Silence Theatre, Voices From Home is a celebration of unheard voices and of the South East itself, enabling new and emerging talent to work side by side to create an exhilarating festival of new writing.
Our ethos is simple: We care about regional writers. We care about unheard voices. We care about the here and now.

The Writers:
Precious Alabi (Essex)
Rachel Causer (Berkshire)
Mark Daniels (Kent)
Rachel Tookey (Surrey)
Phoebe Wood (Norfolk)
Curated by Tim Cook

Theatre 503
503 Battersea Park Road, Battersea
London, SW11 3BW
Sunday 30 June & Monday 1 July 2019
https://theatre503.com/

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