Pros: Casting the Villain Aside was the most sincere and thought provoking play of the evening, with a particularly memorable and haunting ending.
Cons: Some of the characters were very hard to believe because of some weaknesses in the acting.
The Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall is a ‘tea house by day, theatre by night’ and is a delightfully kitsch venue with quirky décor and friendly faces. While the idea of having a theatre in a café is great, in practice there were moments when the outside noise was slightly intrusive. A particularly tender moment being ruined by reggae blaring out of someone’s car wasn’t ideal!
This was the first ever London Short Play Festival, and its main aim was to showcase undiscovered playwrights and give them a chance to reach audiences. None of these plays had been performed before and, so I was intrigued as to what I would witness.
Shrink to Fit is a ‘day in the life’ of a psychiatrist. The play shows us four different clients: a cancer patient, an addict, a troubled couple and a heartbroken man at the brink of suicide. The play tries to demonstrate that it is not just the patients that are struggling to cope, as we see the psychiatrist taking pills between each patient. While I liked the idea, and the play had the potential to be very interesting as you were given an insight into many different conditions, some of the cast were not sincere enough for me to believe in the characters. Unfortunately this left me, on occasion, feeling slightly bored.
The Midnight Salesman is a farcical comedy, as we see three slapstick burglars caught red-handed by a completely clueless couple. I love farce; I’ve watched all the episodes of Fawlty Towers many times! As the burglars first appeared it was funny; the stereotypical bad guy with useless assistants is a failsafe set up. It was only when the couple caught them that my enthusiasm started to wane. Again the show was let down by some weak acting, and at times I felt like I was watching a drama school workshop rather than a rehearsed and polished play.
Casting the Villain Aside was my highlight of the night. The play is set in the dressing room of a pantomime villain, the Wicked Queen from Snow White. As she slowly removes her make up and talks to her daughter it is clear that this is a woman struggling to cope, with her wavering career and fraught relationships with family and colleagues. A particularly poignant moment came right at the end. After a fight with her daughter and after receiving some news which could destroy her career, she slowly removes her wig as she breaks down and the lights dim.
Overall, the plays were full of promise, and they explored a number of themes and emotions. They also had the potential for being a great laugh. However, I felt that they were let down by the quality of the acting. It was hard to believe in some characters, which immediately breaks the spell of any production.
Author: Rachel Osborne, Victoria Jane Appleton, Anna-Lisa Maree
Director: Rachel Osborne, Victoria Jane Appleton, Richard Rhodes
Producer: Maria Klockare, Millie Thorne
Booking Until: 24 May 2014
Box Office: 020 7207 4585
Booking Link: https://kiosk.iristickets.co.uk/k?v=teahousetheatre&item_type=103&general_event_event=EV+London+Short+Play+Festival