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The British Theatre Challenge 2019, Jack Studio Theatre – Review

The evening gets off to a fun, vibrant start with Antisocial Media, Julie Barnett’s well-written, comical and bone-chillingly accurate look at the demons’ social media brings into our lives. Twitter and Facebook, portrayed fantastically by Rosie Ward and Luke Francis respectively, tap into the insecurities of the impressionable Sarah (Beth Noonan-Roberts), exploring the impact social media has on our behavior and the lies we share to feed into the negative cycles that it can perpetuate. Where Antisocial Media is vibrant and energetic, Holli Harms’ For Abby is a more serene look at trying to apologise and atone for a…

Summary

Rating

Good

The 2019 British Theatre Challenge showcases five fresh pieces of writing while inviting the audience to vote for their favourite for the Anne Bartram Playwright Award.

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The evening gets off to a fun, vibrant start with Antisocial Media, Julie Barnett’s well-written, comical and bone-chillingly accurate look at the demons’ social media brings into our lives. Twitter and Facebook, portrayed fantastically by Rosie Ward and Luke Francis respectively, tap into the insecurities of the impressionable Sarah (Beth Noonan-Roberts), exploring the impact social media has on our behavior and the lies we share to feed into the negative cycles that it can perpetuate.

Where Antisocial Media is vibrant and energetic, Holli Harms’ For Abby is a more serene look at trying to apologise and atone for a decision which resulted in tragedy years before. Beatrice has gone to a writing retreat, hoping to find the courage to apologise to Finn for the role she played in his disabled sister’s death. It’s subtle and intriguing, but something seems missing in the delivery of the lines – there’s a lack of connection, genuineness or warmth.

Sandwiched in the middle of the evening is the exceptionally bizarre and enjoyable Cougar, the story of love and revenge that looks at what happens when a socially awkward young man (perfectly played by Laurie Duncan) struggles to cope in the aftermath of his girlfriend being eaten by a cougar. It’s the most fantastic ride. The twists and turns are delightfully impossible to predict. It’s so clever, funny and unexpected – and the puppet show is so wonderfully, simply, brilliant. With acting equally top notch, it’s a clear five-star piece of work.

Trick or Treat by Ron Asher is perhaps the most unsettling and thought-provoking piece. It (somehow, incredibly) blurs the line between the reality of humans and that of cats, so that you’re not actually sure who or what you’re watching, and for that reason it soars. Things that would be acceptable to do to a stray cat are a horrible nightmare for a stray person, and Laurie Duncan as Felix shines again alongside a stunning performance from the older, wiser and cruel to be kind Tom (John Ewens).

The evening finishes with a light-hearted and humorous short piece looking at the hopes, beliefs and balls of a prizewinning racehorse, with Fabio the Great by Elspeth Tilley. It’s a refreshing bit of fun and, although not quite Shakespearean in quality, the ending punchline is quite good.

There’s more than you’d think there would be in this collection of stories about losing your testicles. It’s a fairly gruesome topic you don’t expect to see take centre stage in even one production but yet, somehow it’s in two of them.

It’s certainly an eclectic selection of original writing. The audience are invited to vote for the winner, and for this writer it’s Cougar by the recently deceased Michael Fenlason – but there’s good writing to be celebrated here. Not all of the acting performances are as convincing as they should be, and this does hold back some of the enjoyment of the overall evening – but there are some rather excellent and thoughtful pieces here which will stay with you long after the theatre doors shut.

Co-Directors: Christina Bartram and John Mitton
Booking until: This show has completed its current run.
Booking Link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/brockleyjackstudio/events

About Emily Pulham

Emily Pulham
Works in soap marketing. Emily is a British American Graphic Designer, serious Tube Geek, and football fan living in South West London. The only real experience Emily has with drama is the temper tantrums she throws when the District Line isn’t running properly, but she is an enthusiastic writer and happy to be a theatrical canary in the coal mine.