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Double Feature 1, National Theatre

Edgar and Annabel 

Sam Holcroft

Directed by Lyndsey Turner

The Swan 

DC Moore

Directed by Polly Findlay
The Swan, courtesy of the Evening Standard
As you will know from my review of Double Feature 2, I miserably failed to attend Double Feature 1 in late July due to an incident in the Solent. However, last weekend I made it back to the National’s pop-up performance space in the Paintframe to watch the second (well, technically the first…) batch of new writing on offer. 
I feel it necessary to say that regardless of the plays themselves, I think that the whole concept of the Double Feature series is really the National at its absolute best. The whole atmosphere in the Paintframe is fantastic; it’s imaginative, vibrant, creative, and entertaining even before the lights go down. So in terms of the all-round experience, both sets of Double Features get five stars from us – fundamentally, they have been the most enjoyable evenings of theatre that I have had for a while. Of course we have opted to rate them individually, and even then they score very highly! 
The first of the two productions in Double Feature 1 is Edgar and Annabel, an abstract story about a totalitarian state in which the characters are rebels living in a bugged house which is also one of their bomb factories. To dupe the authorities into believing that they are harmless, the rebels act out their lives in the house as normal, working from scripts as they construct bombs. In short, the line between theatre and real life becomes blurred as characters struggle to maintain characters. From the start I found this to be completely gripping theatre. The script is wonderfully different and extremely clever, and it was delivered via some fine performances, especially from Kirsty Bushell as Marianne (Annabel). Special mention should also go to Soutra Gilmour’s set, which is a splendidly naturalistic kitchen built into a box and surrounded by ‘real world’ items, perfectly creating the theatrical and the real-life locations within the play. All in all, another fantastic hour of new writing, and the interval came round far too quickly. 
Once I had finished watching the stage team create a brand new performance space in less than twenty minutes (another brilliant aspect of the Double Feature series), I took my seat in the new layout and found myself sitting in a rough looking pub for the second show, The Swan. The script is again excellent – a solid piece of naturalistic theatre which requires high-calibre performances. Fortunately that is exactly what we got. The play began with effing and blinding by Trevor Cooper, who went on to deliver a brilliant and deeply recognisable performance as Jim, the rough but deeply affected Father of a Son whose funeral he has missed. Sharon Duncan-Brewster’s portrayal of the mouthy Christine and Nitin Kundra’s delivery of loveable hopeless case Bradwell were also superb. The story is deeply moving, and the culmination of a great script with excellent performances and a simple but effective set is an hour of refreshingly good new theatre. 
The Double Feature series has provided me two memorable evenings of theatre. As an experience I would give both evenings five stars – I enjoyed them both enormously. I won’t pretend that the plays themselves are the next ‘big things’, but nonetheless they are huge fun and a joy to watch. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
Double Feature 1 runs at the National Theatre until 10th September 2011.

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