Pros: Great value for money – two plays for the price of one.
Cons: Both plays are not reliant on ornate set design, so those looking for high-production costs for scenery should look elsewhere.
Throughout December, along with its main production, the AllThePigs theatre group – in collaboration with the New Diorama Theatre – are hosting their third First-Time-Writers Initiative. Each week, a different director and set of actors rehearse and perform a one-act play that has been commissioned and guided in the creative process by AllThePigs.
On the night I turned up, as a counterpoint to the andro-centric main show Gizmo Love was preceded by Three Little Birds, a play where three of the four characters are female, as is the director (Suzy Catliff). The action for the latter takes place several hours after ‘a loud bang’ is heard in London, while two sets of couples try to make sense of what’s happened. Instead of the set design being split between left and right of the stage, the action takes place in an X-formation, perhaps alluding to the fact that the events take place at the same time in the same city.
Covered in debris dust, Sarah and a businessman on a tube train try to piece together what happened on the surface, and in between the bickering, debate the best course of action – assuming they’re not the last people alive. In contrast, Olivia and Rad at Heathrow Airport ponder over their mysterious benefactor, who is supplying them with Nutri-Grain bars…
Of the two plot threads, Olivia and Rad’s segment had the lighter touch, and Nicola Kill (who plays Olivia) delivers her role with aplomb. The predicament of Sarah and the businessman was perhaps the most unnerving, given the events that happened in London in July 2005. Alice Pitt-Carter (who played Sarah) manages to impart a truthful performance as someone who is struggling to cope with a crisis without information.
Like Three Little Birds, Gizmo Love (directed by Sam Carrack) is a four-hander and uses a minimum of props and furniture to set the scene, but that’s as far as the similarities go. Gizmo focuses on Ralph, a novice British screenwriter, who at the request of the producer, has to work on a next draft with veteran script doctor Manny. As if Ralph isn’t under enough pressure, two mob hitmen turn up to make sure changes are implemented.
Without a doubt, Manny is the driving force of the story and Spencer Burrows who plays him, manages to convey an intriguing, multi-faceted character. Certainly Manny could be construed as a ’hack’, but his underlying love for movies shines through, as do his insecurities. Jerome Thompson who plays the relatively subdued Ralph, gives a less ostentatious performance than Burrows, but he subtly shows a young man shedding the layers to his own private world.
The hitmen, Max and Thomas (played by Andy McLeod and David William Bryan, respectively), are in some ways like Jules and Vince from Pulp Fiction – criminals who don’t conform to the stereotypes of henchmen, with a dash of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Max, the older of the two is more self-assured, more authoritative. Thomas, in contrast, appears to be someone who doesn’t think things through and provides many moments of comic relief. He does, however, have a surprising character arc.
As someone who has dabbled in writing scripts, I thought the play (through Manny’s scenes) gives insightful advice about writing screenplays, offering valid points such as the use and purpose of dialogue. Does the audience know about the items that are significant to characters? If not, show it! Manny adds that dialogue is always about one person’s opinion and relationship with another. I found the points made in this dramatic fashion pertinent and well-explained, and added greater depth to the multi-layered play.
Authors: John Kolvenbach and Ffion Jones
Directors: Sam Carrack and Suzy Catliff
Box Office: 020 7916 5487
Booking Link: https://tickets.newdiorama.com/WebPages/EntaWebEvent/EventSeatBlockPrices.aspx
Booking Until: 21st December 2013