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She Writes: What’s Through the Door, Canal Café Theatre – Review

Presented by 17% in association with Canal Café Theatre
Directed by Amy Clare Tasker 

Loosing Light by Whoop ‘n ‘Wail
The Audition by Sam Hall
The Fourth Circle by Hehir 

Pros: Three plays in one, each delightful and mysterious. The pieces are beautifully and intelligently connected by an overarching narrative.

Cons: I think this piece could have benefited from more playing space. It could do with a bigger theatre where the central and integral set piece, a green door, could be more prominent instead of tucked to the side.

Our Verdict: This is a very well-crafted show that cleverly integrates three stand alone short pieces with one talented small cast and a super narrative. An entertaining and thought provoking evening.

Courtesy of 17%

‘Did you know that out of every one hundred plays you see, only seventeen are by women?’ This was the question posed to us by 17%’s founder, Sam Hall, before She Writes: What’s Through the Door began.

It’s a shocking statistic. 17% hopes to change this with their She Writes showcase, through which they have produced forty-eight short plays by thirty-two female writers.

With this particular showcase, four playwrights were set the task of writing a seventeen minute piece based on any part of The Door in the Wall by HG Wells in which characters must be able to be played by a male or female actor and a key had to be a main element in the story.

This was an inspirational seed that yielded three entirely different plays, aptly sewn together by readings from different parts of the book.

The first of these plays, Loosing Light by Whoop n’ Wail, sees four adults playing a game from their childhood that would appear to have rather heightened emotional stakes that were never stated out right. This might have been my favourite of the three purely for the ambiguity and mystery in the dialogue between two of the players (played by Jonathan Akingba and Abla Kandalaft) whose language only vaguely alluded to a past. Admittedly, this might frustrate some, but when you only have seventeen minutes, it does give the narrative vastly more potential.

The second of the plays, The Audition, by company leader Sam Hall, depicts a can’t-do-anything-right-but-thinks-he-can actor (played by Mathew Betteridge). He thinks he’s gone to an audition but has actually landed himself in an alternate reality that presents itself in the form of his favourite TV show – complete with aliens and the Captain of an impressive space craft who happens to go gaga for him. This piece probably best achieved play status as we know it: beginning, middle, end; present the protagonist, introduce a dilemma, solve it. While that might sound mundane, this was definitely the most stand-out and perhaps most creative of the three. Although, the surprise twists and turns might make some feel cheated of a ‘real’ story and the ending was not as strong or satisfactory as the rest of the piece.

The finale to the trilogy, The Fourth Circle by Sarah Weir, might have been the most whimsical of the bunch (despite the aliens and alternate reality of the previous scene). Seemingly set in the days of yore (or at least when HG Wells was writing), this play followed two very different twins unlocking a riddle left by their late mother. While this was a sweet story of the sibling bond, very different from the other two, this was perhaps the weakest, less intriguing of the three plays. The use of the other two actors as voices and characters in the twins’ past was however, a very clever integration of the entire cast, though the rather random insertion of a bull fighting scene in which one actor (Georgina Panton) donned a papier mâché bull head seemed out of place.

The use of the same cast of four actors for all three plays further united the pieces into one performance. All actors handled their diverse roles well, although the delightfully animated Georgina Panton seemed to be slightly and unfortunately underused across the performances.

These three unique tales from a single source seemed altogether too big for the charming but cramped Canal Café Theatre and would definitely burst forth on a different grander stage.

An enjoyable potluck evening of theatre with a powerful force behind it, 17%’s She Writes showcases are definitely to be watched.

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

She Writes: What’s Through the Door? Performed for one night only at the Canal Café Theatre on Wed 25 September. The next showcase will be at the Rochester Literature Festival Oct 5. See here for details: http://17percent.wordpress.com/events/current-events/

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  1. What a wonderful evening of theatre, great writing and performances. I thoroughly enjoyed The Fourth Circle and thought it stood out as by far the most engaging play. On the surface it is the story of brotherly love, but intriguing references to Dante’s Inferno, Tarot, Shakespeare (and I suspect many more that I didn’t pick up on) meant I found this a short play with great depth. Congratulations everyone.

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