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Held by the Habit, New Diorama

Ben Seager
Directed by Sam Carrack


Pros: Enjoyable and entertaining, with some great potential. Good acting from all and a great performance from lead actor Jeff Lewis.

Cons: There wasn’t much movement on stage.

Our Verdict: A great initiative with a family atmosphere set in a flashy new space with some serious potential. What else would you want on a Thursday night?

Courtesy of All the Pigs

I was glad to be invited to this event at the New Diorama, a recently welcomed addition to the London Fringe Scene. Now in it’s third year running, All the Pigs is an interesting opportunity for anyone who always fancied themselves as a playwright. The quirky yet reliably solid All the Pigs pick three individuals who have never written before and takes them on a 16-week intensive course complete with workshops and readings eventually leading to a 30-minute play. One lucky selected writer will have a chance to perform on stage and who knows? Perhaps even reach Edinburgh and beyond…

This year’s selection was the amusing Held by the Habit written by Ben Seager and directed by Sam Carrack. The play was a 30 minutes glimpse into the life and mind of an ageing Frank Sinatra, who finds himself all ready for his final show when a pushy journalist literally breaks into his dressing room. What made it intriguing was the fact that not only “The Voice” – incarnated by an excellent Jeff Lewis – came with a well executed Italian-American accent and Hollywood-style flare and charm that hooked me like I was at the movies, but the fact that the supposedly flattering interview from the Time Magazine envoy (Kieran O’Rourke) was truly a conspiracy-style prank set out by an insurance company to prove good old Sinatra medically unfit. And as the court case developed in alternating spotlight focus between the Voice and sharp-nosed corporate lawyer (Madeleine MacMahon), a few sad details of the Voice’s life were revealed. Was he really a gangster? What other secrets will the evil spy-come-journalist extract from the legendary singer? Wait a moment, this can’t be true, is Frank really saying that he had been on iced tea rather than Bourbon Whiskey for years? What? A myth just crumbled.

London Fringe scene. It looked well indeed, with some fair weather, a juicy first time writers’ initiative all set in the flashy yet cosy environs of the New Diorama Theatre. The space was a pleasant surprise – set behind bustling Euston Road, yet fittingly carved at the back of flashy Regent’s Place to make it feel like an oasis of modern art. The space is small but cosy and comfortable.

The scene was perhaps a tad static on the whole but then again, the amusing dialogues more than made up for it and the alternative scene at court threw new light into the storyline. I thought the story was well written and in line with the current fringe mood of lateral thinking, reality bending, entertaining productions. With more resources, stage time and a wider crew, this playwright has great potentials to become a fully fledged show.

Well done Ben and hats off to All The Pigs for choosing well and for bringing a new writer strongly up into the fringe theatre scene. What a pity this was a one-off show, although secret hope in the air was that this group may show their wits and talents somewhere else soon, please stay tuned.

PS – I understand that invitations are now open for this year’s intake of new writers, it might be precisely what many of you were waiting for!

For more details on how to apply, all you need to do is check the New Diorama Theatre Website and follow the link to the All the Pigs competition.

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

Held by the Habit ran at The New Diorama Theatre on 13th June 2013 http://newdiorama.com/whats-on/ftwi-2013-launch-party

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