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Unseasoned, Shooting Star Pub

Presented by Back Here! Theatre Company

Pros: Most of these pieces contain interesting concepts and humour, and there is some observant and poignant writing in the monologues. Bethan Cullinane stands out as a talented writer and actor.

Cons: The characters presented in the plays are, on the whole, unimaginative and obvious. The dialogues are delivered to a measured cadence that lacks dynamic. The acting is weak at several points throughout the performance, lacking credibility and sincerity.

Our Verdict: This company has a lot of work to do to bring this production to a standard acceptable to a ticket buying audience, but we applaud their noble work to bring new writing to an audience.

Courtesy of Back Here! Theatre

This production is actually a collection of previously unperformed short plays and monologues, presented for the first time in the function room of a pub by a group of young and enthusiastic actors. The idea is that the producers and writers are present, meaning that after the show the audience can ask questions and chat to the cast and creatives. This is a good idea, and a great way to showcase some fresh writing and some perhaps yet-to-be-discovered talent.

The monologues are the real strength in show, each one written with intelligent consideration and performed with credible sincerity. Opening the evening, Clock Tocking by Rianna Dearden is a very funny and witty observation on what goes on in a mind during a tube journey. Liam Mansfield’s Death, Disillusion and a Tramp is an insight into the thoughts and feelings of a graduate on his journey to employment. Mansfield delivers the monologue with humour and sincerity which connects immediately with his audience. In the Mud by Bethan Cullinane is a poignant period piece about a ‘lady’ who finds herself in the Land Army during the War. I particularly like this piece as it was beautifully acted by Cullinane and demonstrated a real sentimentality on a subject that she could have no firsthand knowledge of.

Several of the plays, however, did not possess the same strengths that the monologues presented. He(Art) by Andrew Maddock has a strong conceptual theme around a couple’s roles and relationship, however the dialogue was too metered and the acting was a bit obvious and lacked credibility. Roads End by Daisy Jo Lucas finds two women reacquainting by accident, each with a back story which they candidly divulge. The acting here is frankly poor and made me actually cringe. Craig Henry’s Grinding is a confrontational piece about an alternative style of dating. Again the dialogue isn’t credible – it attempts to evoke a sexually charged atmosphere with emotional undertones using a ‘he says/she says’ cadence punctuated with some swearing. It just doesn’t work. He Is Heavy by Bobby Hirston is a discourse between two brothers following the death of their parents. Although the intention is a possibly poignant observation, the reality is a dry and very measured conversation between two very uninteresting, wooden characters.

The highlight of the show is the final play, In Our Profession by Tennessee Williams. This short, clever little piece of writing was a breath of fresh air, ten minutes or so of lovely, funny theatre. Bethan Cullinane really sparkles in this short play as a two-bit touring actress trying to seduce a suitor so as to escape the drudgery of another stint on the road. The comic timing is impeccable and it is a good decision by the producers to save the best until last.

There is very little in the way of costume and props, but I don’t think this has any effect on the production. There were simple things that could easily have been avoided that did detract from the audience experience. There was no staging or raked seating so from my seat in the sixth row I had to duck and dive between the heads of the people sat in front to see the actors, I couldn’t see any actions below shoulder height and at times I could not hear what was being said. The seats were arranged in rows that were far too close together (unnecessarily so as the room was not full) which meant we were cramped and uncomfortable for the two hour performance. There was also a bare light bulb in the middle of the wall behind the stage area which was incredibly and unnecessarily distracting.

Back Here! Theatre Company and the writers, producers and actors who took part in this presentation show some glimpses of real promise and talent, but there is a lot of work to do here to bring this type of production to a wider, paying audience.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Unseasoned has now finished its run at the Shooting Star Pub.

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