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Now We are Three: The Best of Descent, Southwark Playhouse

The Fitting Room, Mat Burt, Directed by Martin Leonard
Blind Date, Ziella Bryars, Directed by Georgia Murphy
Penpals, Chloe Ewart, Directed by Faye Merralls
Casting Call, Alex Head, Directed by Jennifer Bakst
Thornaby, Keziah Warner, Directed by David Aula
★★★★

Pros: Very funny, and an evening of great story telling. The dialogue is very good across the board.

Cons: There are so many great plays to see that it ends up being a bit lengthy.

Our Verdict: A very enjoyable experience with great acting and great writing on display.

Courtesy of Southwark Playhouse

Descent are a theatre group that focus on new writing events and place a lot of focus on helping the writers develop their ideas. This is a valuable investment on full display in Now We Are Three – an evening of three of their best plays over the past three years as well as two brand new ones. The three previously performed favourites were The Fitting Room by Mat Burt, Blind Date by Ziella Bryars, and Penpals written by (and starring) the very talented Chloe Ewart. The two new ones were from a rotating selection, that changes on each evening. On my visit I saw Casting Call by Alex Head and Thornaby by Keziah Warner- both darkly humorous pieces.

When you have an evening divided into sections, it’s an almost automatic reaction to judge the sections against one another, and compare them against an immediate successor- something stand alone plays don’t have to compete with. Where Descent have excelled is that the selection of performances are genuinely so good and enjoyable that they don’t compete against each other- rather, they form a truly complete and lively evening.

Of the old favourites, it was easy to see why they deserved a second run. “The Fitting Room” was quick, sharp, smart and funny. “Blind Date” offered a very unexpected curve ball to what starts off as a typically awkward blind date, and manages to be comical and a little absurd yet strangely poignant. Stephanie Lodge as Emma is really very good. She is the only participant in this piece and as such provides the only dialogue. It could be difficult to carry an entire scene on your own, but she does this well.

In the same way you shouldn’t have a favourite child, I shouldn’t pick a favourite play from tonight’s show, but I can’t help it. I really loved “Penpals.” The story of a broken up couple told through their letters to each other really seemed to resonate with the audience and was equal measures funny, thoughtful, and heart-wrenching (in fact it possibly hit a little too close to home for this writer.)

The plays were very well written, and the scenery was handled in a creative manner. Each scene had similar objects at their disposal, the best of which were two white cubby-hole book cases which featured in every scene. To change the locale the contents of the cubby holes change along with the play. They are at their best use for the swimming pool scene, when they are filled with cups of blue and clear water. The lightening for this scene is also excellent and perfectly fitting to the scenario and the growing tension.

The evening was compered, with a comedian/actor dividing and introducing each scene. This was done on the evening I attended by the likeable and friendly Dan Green, and kept the evening flowing nicely. This was useful, as seeing five plays does not make for a quick evening. The event finishes out at a lengthy 2hrs 30mins, and does start feeling rather long in the last piece (in this case two men clock watching while they are locked in a swimming pool over night.) It was either genius or madness to put the longest one, and one that focused around time moving slowly, last.

This was a genuinely enjoyable evening, and good for people that like a good laugh. Casting Call was perhaps the most humorous— in particular Alice Haigh as “Chloey. With a Y. The play takes a really enjoyable and deliciously funny dark turn at one point.

There’s a lot of grown up language throughout the evening (particularly in Thornaby), and leave your jumpers at home for this one folks- Southwark playhouse could’ve cooked a few pizzas at the temperature we sat in. This evening is such great fun- and you’ll be hard pressed to find an evening of such well written dialogue elsewhere.

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

Now We Are Three The Best of Descent runs at Southwark Playhouse until 24th August 2013.
Box Office: 02074070234 or book online at Southwark Playhouse

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