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Bodies: A Night of New Writing, Horse & Stables – Review

Louise Bastock, Henry Agger, Craig Henry, Rosie Frecker, Rebecca Robinson, Matthew Radway
Directed by Michael Beigel, Sophie Drewery, Henry Agger, Suvi Peisanen, Chris Lawson, Bella Louden, Matthew Radway
★★★★

Pros: Six mostly excellent short pieces with strong performances and lots of potential.

Cons: These are not complete plays and minimal production values make the night feel basic and unpolished.

Our Verdict: There was some fantastic new writing and acting talent during the largely enjoyable evening.

Courtesy of The Horse & Stables

Ghost Dog Productions presented six new, short plays on the theme of ‘bodies’. With a good mix of genres, most of the pieces seemed to be the starting points for full-length productions. However, considering this, they were mostly very well written and well-cast.

The first piece, If You’re Not Living You’re Dead is a slapstick, one-liner filled comedy set in what we hope is a rather unusual Scottish morgue. It is the first day on the job for one of the three staff. The new lad Alex (Henry Wyrley-Birch) barely speaks, but amusingly expresses his shock and horror at his colleagues’ antics and the reality of death laid bare. There is great potential for this short piece to be developed into a dark comedy.
In The Red Column, Seff (Samantha Marie Cook) and Leo (Hayden Tyler) have just finished clearing their home of anything valuable in preparation for the arrival of debt collector Dave (Paul Hoskins). Seff tries to seduce Dave so that Leo will catch them and blackmail him into clearing the couple’s debt. The performances seem unbelievable and the direction and blocking seem vague. Despite this, the writing is very good and I can see the potential for further development of this piece.
The Wastes is a Samuel Beckett-inspired, dystopian piece set in a wasteland with two characters. They do not know where they are, how they got there or why they are there. They only know their job is to bury the rotting corpses piled around them. Like Waiting for Godot, there is no resolution. Instead, two more actors (Paul Hoskins and Sophie Drewery) enter after a beast is heard in the restless night and the play starts again from the beginning. Non-realistic and existential in nature, this sort of piece is not to everyone’s taste even though the writing was technically good.
The second half of the event starts with Cause and Effect, a comedy where a motorcyclist (Luke Shepherd) visits a young woman that he hit with his bike (Rosie Frecker), in hospital. The woman, who has no interest in seeing the man, politely discourages him whilst questioning whether the accident was fate. The man, trying to joke with her, rubbishes her philosophy. This feels like the shortest of the six pieces with an abrupt ending, but this is again a tightly written piece with a lot of potential and great performances.
The best performed piece of the night, Pro, is the penultimate. Kate Craggs plays Maisy, an ambitious young woman who moves to London and resorts to prostitution. She tells her story in a police interview with charming, tough energy but despite a captivating, exceptional performance, as a 1-person show there is a limit to this piece’s development. One-person plays can easily become repetitive and boring if they are any substantial length, but the writing and acting in this poignant, intense piece was excellent.
The final play of the evening and certainly the most polished, April Fool, is another slapstick comedy set in New York City. Martin (Sebastian Blunt) and Jim (James Taylor Thomas) are flatmates who annually play April Fool’s tricks on each other. This year, Martin really pushes the boundaries and orders a dead body from Dockyard Alan for the flat in preparation for Jim’s sister’s visit. Jack, the brother-in-law (Christie Grattan), discovers the body under an old sheet. As dockyard Alan (Joseph Banks) turns up to take the body away and we learn about it’s identity, Crackhead Steve. This was very well acted and the audience was laughing uproariously on numerous occasions with particularly great deliveries by Thomas and Grattan.
The whole evening was incredibly enjoyable and a great showcase of emerging talent. Subject matter was varied enough to keep the audience’s interest. This would be a great regular new writing night if it continues to be curated excellently, and all of these pieces deserve further development.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Bodies: A Night of New Writing runs at Horse & Stables from 28th October to 30th October.
Horse & Stables event booking: 020 7298 6277. http://thehorseandstables.co.uk/

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