Pros: A mixed bag of genres with something for every taste.
Cons: For those who require more certainty from their entertainment, this mix of new works might not be for you.
In a world full of technological wizardry sometimes it’s nice to just go back to basics. Encompass Productions‘ Bare Essentials aims to do just that. They take great new writing, actors and directors and give them nothing but a room and some basic props in order to prove that all good theatre really requires are these few basic elements.
You can get anything from your evening of (this time) seven shows ranging in length from five to probably fifteen minutes. Subject matter ranges from light and satirical to dark and intense, from uprisings of laid off TV writers and zoos turned on their head so the animals observe the humans, to hospital waiting rooms and suicide pacts.
While Encompass Productions are very careful to point out that Bare Essentials is not a scratch night (an evening of works in progress) but rehearsed presentations of new works, some pieces are naturally stronger and more engaging than others. Most of the time, this is just because they appear to be better written, suggesting yet again that the strength of a work is in the page.
Having said that, direction and performances were strong across the board, even with the less developed of the scripts. And I did not feel the absence of fancy lighting or sound effects as the stories and the characters were genuinely intriguing.
Despite each piece coming from a different playwright, structures were similar, most of them finishing on a hook or a cliff hanger. I was usually (and cleverly) left wanting more, so there was clearly potential in several of these pieces for later development into a full length script.
The most well written piece of the evening was The Leaving of Things by Dean Moynihan. James Barbour and Alice Corrigan perform this depiction of the suicide pact between two strangers with heart rendering complexity. Panther by R.J. Thomson must also receive commendation for its charming depiction of a West Country lad searching the English wilderness for a ferocious animal that has committed the crime for which he, the boy, has been blamed – a compelling performance by Alexander Pankhurst.
Less convincing as a play and perhaps more of a sketch was Alain G Cloarec’s Nothing Could Surprise Me Now in which three men are stuck in a world where they narrate their own lives and actions and cannot speak in the first person; a fun idea that fizzles quickly. Confessions à Deux by Stephen Cooper has a similarly short-lived trajectory (there’s probably not many options for fornicating priests anyway).
There is no question however, that each of these pieces, no matter where I believed they sat in the quality cue, began with a great idea. The sheer creativity evident throughout the evening proves Bare Essentials’ value in giving new ideas a voice, the best, the brilliant and the diamonds in the rough.
Producers: Liam Fleming, Jonathan Woodhouse and Rachael Owens
Directors: Jonathan Woodhouse, Matt Beresford, Liam Fleming, Annemarie Highmore, Lucy Foster, Alice Kornitzer and Michaela Frances Neal
Writers: Dan Page, Dean Moynihan, R.J. Thomson, David Wiener, Lucy Foster, Stephen Cooper, Alain G Cloarec
Booking Until: 28 June 2015
Box Office: 020 7419 4841
Booking Link: http://www.encompassproductions.co.uk/bare-essentials/4584398374