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Festopia, Theatre503

Presented by Little Pieces of Gold

★★★★

Pros: This production is filled with a wonderful variety of wit and humour, clever concepts and poignancy. The writing is mostly top notch and the cast work very well together.

Cons: There are a few moments that could be tightened up a tad. One of the plays lost me a little and another felt a bit flat and uninteresting compared to the energy of the others.

Our Verdict: This is really worth seeing. As a production, it has charisma and contrast with interesting ideas on the future but with plenty of good humour thrown in.


Courtesy of Theatre503

Have you ever thought about where we are heading as a society? About what impact political correctness, scientific advances, capitalism and the ‘big brother’ state might have on us? Festopia explores these themes in a collection of nineteen new short plays, selected from more than 250 submissions and presented over four nights. It is a great concept – there are four different plays every night, followed by the hour long Our Children Will Be Next written by Suzette Coon and directed by Lydia Parker. Each play is different in its focus, most are funny, all are dramatic and each one is quite poignant in its own right. With perhaps one exception, the stories are interesting and the concepts are delivered in full.

The show opens with COC, written by Polly Churchill and Vanessa Wilkins and directed by Sarah Ford. This satirical spoof of a pseudo-government organisation’s meeting is completely hilarious. The characters are perfect caricatures of political correctness, congratulating themselves on their significantly small contribution to equality in a time when men need assistance to break through the glass ceiling and combat sexism in sport. The writing here is witty, relevant and brilliantly observed and the cast – Jessica Burgess, Jemma Churchill, Nick Dutton and Naomi Paxton – deliver impeccable comic timing. What I love about this play is that the concept is so simple, ie. turning sexism on its head, and yet the impact of this wonderfully written script is revelatory.

Next up is Pathos Wholesale, written by David Griffiths and directed by Katherine Hayes. Science has taken us to a time when emotions can be purchased in vials from a store which provides the customer the freedom to choose his emotional response to the world he lives in. I was left wondering whether ‘choice’ and ‘control’ are positive things? The laughs come very easily and the humorous and punchy dialogue between the emotionless shop keeper and the overwrought customer are truly wonderful. The contrast between these two characters is perfectly highlighted by great performances from Simon James Bailie and Tony Rowden.

The Interview, written by Erasmus Murakami and directed by Jon Bradshaw, is a very different idea of how job interviews may be conducted if political correctness goes out the window. It is all a bit bizarre and there were a few times when the script lost my attention. Any confusion is compensated for by the outstanding performance of the interviewee who opens with a very funny, slapstick entrance before delivering a very emotional soliloquy regarding his situation, which garners even more laughs. This was the performance of the night for me due to the depth of the character portrayed.

The last play in the first half of the evening is Perfect Now, written by Jimmy Osborne and directed by Faye Merralls. A perfectly ordinary young couple are doing something extraordinary – they are making bombs and planning to blow up bulldozers. This play is sedate and feels a little lacking after the energy of its pacey antecessors. The dialogue is perhaps intentionally mundane to highlight the contrast with the act of bomb-making but I don’t feel that Claire Marlowe and Chris O’Shea convey the passion or desperation that drives them to that point and there was no real twist in the tale.

Our Children Will be Next, written by Suzette Coon and directed by Lydia Parker is the play everyone will see over the four nights and for good reason too. The dinner party drama is set in a completely privatised tomorrow, where the ‘director’ determines the future of all the inhabitants of the sector. It is an insightful exploration of social class, control, conformity and the acceptance and misuse of power. This is a fantastic piece of writing and I love the way the characters quickly convey the various sectors of society and how they are affected by autocratic corporate governance. The cast (Daniel Carter Hope, Dan March, Kevin Hand, Jessica Sichel, Sakuntala Ramanee and Tracey Ann Wood) are simply superb in nailing the rapport of old, yet wary acquaintances and getting to the core of what is behind the individual in each case. Special mention must go to ‘the director’ who really anchors the sinister undertone of this civil, social occasion. This play is dramatic, funny, entertaining and disturbing.

Theatre503 is a comfortable theatre space right above the friendly Latchmere pub which is committed to ‘bold, irreverent and provocative new plays’. This production certainly encapsulates this ethos by delivering hard-hitting concepts with enjoyable humour, clever writing and great casting. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Festopia runs at Theatre503 until 26th January 2013.
Box Office: 020 7978 7040 or book online at http://theatre503.com/whats-on/festopia/

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  • This largely conforms to my thoughts too, though a little generous on the star rating, perhaps. Suzette Coon’s longer play certainly contained the superior writing and performances of the evening. The first half left a lot more to be desired, unfortunately, though I enjoyed something in each of the plays. The acting in Perfect Now was a bit better than you give it credit for but I agree the play itself didn’t make its point as well as it might.The other plays felt more like sketches and didn’t have any real zest of newness about them, though the acting all evening was strong throughout. Finally, I didn’t feel the plays sat well as a set. I’d like to have seen some other of the 19 (!) plays in Festopia and would be interested to hear from anyone who did. Overall, I’m certainly glad I went and will return to Theatre 503 (and Little Pieces Of Gold).