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City Shorts, Rosemary Branch Theatre

Presented by London Grey and Green Theatre Company

Pros: Four 15-minute pieces offer a snapshot of some interesting female writers.
Cons: With the exception of one piece, the idea that women living in London lead different lives to women living in other parts of the UK was not considered in as great a depth as it could have been. 
Our Verdict: A light evening that won’t challenge you intensely. Each separate show has its own style and message which creates an interesting collage of pieces. 
Courtesy of Grey And Green Theatre
The prerequisite for submitting a piece to the City Shorts project was that 50% of the characters had to be female. The other requirement was that it had to be set in London. From dozens of submissions four champions were picked. Out of the four plays only one of them had a 50:50 male to female ratio, and in total 3 of the 13 cast members were men. It was refreshing to see such a glut of young female talent on stage.
82 to North Finchley, Judy Upton
Toni is looking for her girlfriend, Sam, who is the voice you hear on London busses. Sam has mysteriously disappeared and Toni’s friend Dani takes her on the 82 to North Finchley because there is some inflection in Sam’s voice whenever the bus repeats “82 to North Finchley”. What is in North Finchley that makes Sam so excited when she says it?
The piece is mainly performed to the audience as a monologue by Emma Stirling as Toni while Emma Sylvester sits patiently with her back to the audience for most of it as Sam. The script is cleverly written: Sam never speaks except in bus routes but writer Judy Upton uses Sam to voice places across London squeezed into sentences. For example when discussing an argument they had been having Sam pipes up: ‘Pratt Street’. The script is clever and speedy, and consequently this was my favourite show of the night.
Dropping Stiches, Ness Lyons
A group of stay at home parents meet to knit and gossip. Three women and one man discuss their children, their morals and their lives as friction chafes aggressively between these distinct and over the top stereotypes. One mum – Liz – brags on and on about how wonderful her daughter is only to ultimately reveal how she really feels about her child. Focused and determined, Danielle Nott offers a performance of Liz that makes her dislikeable but you end up feeling terribly sorry for her as you watch a woman trapped in the role she has been given as caregiver. Camilla Whitehill, Alice Fernandez and Tom Slatter play other middle class stereotyped roles and provide punch and humour to the show. The four cast members created a lovely group ensemble piece but I didn’t particularly like any of their characters. Perhaps the response writer Ness Lyons desired.
Fit For Work, Susan Harrison
A close look at the friendship of two young girls during the last year of one of their father’s lives. Holly Ashman plays a modern day teenager with proficiency, performing the realistic script with skill. She appears to easily portray the complex situation of being a teenager and having to deal with the effects on the family of her father’s fatal illness, and she is helped along by the thoughtful script.
Anna, Wendy Thomson
Anna is a strange piece. Described as a satirical look at how women’s writing in theatre is critiqued, we watch as a young baby dies when its mother takes it to bed with her. Suddenly two audience members speak up, voicing criticism about the show. The actors continue all the while as these two observers moan about the obviousness of the show. When the actress shoots the two critics after becoming frustrated at their condescension, the critics themselves rush out of the auditorium, raving ecstatically about the brilliance of the show.
I understand this show is a tongue in cheek response from a female writer to all the criticism women’s writing faces in the theatre, but I think the message this show was trying to get across was too important for such a minute, short show. I also didn’t particularly get along with the circumstances of the play; I think perhaps a different scenario could be utilised better to consider this socio-political commentary.
Overall all four of these pieces have their own unique style attached to them. This offers a plethora of writing talent and an evening which any audience member is unlikely to grow bored of. I definitely had my favourite piece, partly down to my own preferences and partly down to it being a better show with a stronger script. A trip to this trendy pub to watch City Shorts is far from a hassle for an agreeable, if not entirely exciting, evening.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
City Shorts runs at The Rosemary Branch Theatre until the 2nd June 2013.
Box Office: 0207 704 6665 or book online at www.rosemarybranch.co.uk

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