Pros: Some great performances. Short and snappy pieces.
Cons: A confusing amount of variation between stories. Some odd casting choices.
New writing nights are often a mixed bag, particularly if there is no overriding theme, or not one that is universally adhered to, as was the case for New Beginnings. You could kind of see how each play linked to this idea of beginnings but some of the connections were tenuous at best. As the proximity to the theme varied, so did the quality. Whilst none of the plays were irredeemably bad, none stood out as extraordinary either, and there were definitely some cringe moments.
Ironically, the evening did not have the best of beginnings. The first piece, Unexpected-Beautiful, was rom-com-esque, but failed to hit the comedy mark with great effect. You know how it goes; boy meets girl on the train, boy is inexplicably forward and chatty and girl is inexplicably charmed. The piece is one of those, it’s funny because it’s awkward, but really it was just awkward. Combine random Americanisms with odd sound effects, and add some indulgent staring-into-space musings on urban isolation and the result is unfortunately, rather half-baked.
However things got better from then on. The following piece, Shane and Shame, was arguably the most compelling of the night and definitely had the best performances. Kris Mochrie and Katherine Ingle were superb, even if having two twenty-somethings play characters twenty years apart was jarring and confusing.
Whilst Shane and Shame was chilling and Unexpected-Beautiful took itself a bit too seriously, a lot of pieces took the comedic route. This is hardly unexpected as laughter is easier to achieve in ten minutes than pathos. The humour covered such varied topics as parenting and guns in Middle America, to spermatozoa waiting to be called into action, as well as dipping into Internet role-play and how Italians say ‘squirrel’.
Indeed the most encouraging thing was the diversity of the subject matter; a lot of it was genuinely unusual. Yes, the quality of the pieces was very mixed but so was the issue or theme of each piece. You never knew quite what to expect next and there’s a lot to be said about the feeling of surprise, of not being certain where you stand as an audience: not an easily accomplished feat with today’s media – and everything else – savvy population.
As far as directing goes, there wasn’t anything that stood out, apart from perhaps the staging of Love in the Time of Magicka, which made use of levels and physicality to distinguish between the ‘real’ and virtual worlds. In fact there were a few things that could’ve been done better. A blackout midway through Shane and Shame caused confusion, and the audience to clap, as well as taking us out of the world of the play. However, since a lot of directing is not something you can point to easily onstage, it may be a little unfair to suggest it was unremarkable, especially considering the plays’ short formats and that they were no doubt put together over a likewise brief period of time.
I definitely enjoyed the evening as a whole. The pub was nice, they served good ale and the show wasn’t half bad. As a young writer myself, I fully support new writing nights and hope theatres continue to produce as much new work as possible. New writing nights are often the best way to showcase material as well as acting and directing talent. However, whilst the work should take centre stage, the company hosting the nights should be forging an identity for it in order to answer the question, what makes this new writing night different from others? I can’t help but feel that this night was light on the Pick, and heavy on the Mix – the ‘n’ was nowhere to be found.
Authors: Sevan K. Greene, Lou Treleaven, Marietta Kirkbride, Sean Christopher Lewis, James Walczy.
Directors: Abigail Pickard Price, Esme Hicks, Freyja Winterson, Matthew Radway, Tania Azevedo, Rae Coates.
Producer: Ghost Dog Productions
Booking Link: www.seetickets.com
Booking Until: 22nd January 2014