Pros: A diverse selection of pieces by young playwrights with a good mixture of drama and comedy.
Cons: The foundations are there, but most pieces need some refining.
While I completely support the idea of festivals, be it music, theatre or otherwise, they can be a bit of a hassle. For one, they usually involve three-page, colour-coded, cross-referencing schedules that are completely unreadable on the screen of your phone. And lots of walking. Fortunately church-turned-theatre The Space has decided to give their 2013 invention The One Festival another go this year. In one evening you get to see between three and five solo performances by young talent. No choosing, so no complicated schedules, and the only walking you have to do is up the stairs to the bar and back. Easy peasy.
Programme A consisted of four performances: one hour-long show before the interval, and afterwards three pieces of about twenty minutes each. The first piece was The Unfortunates by Aoise Stratford, in which Jack the Ripper’s last victim Mary Jane Kelly describes life in Whitechapel at the time of the murders. There clearly was plenty to talk about, and actress Lucy Farrett kept a good pace throughout. The concept of Mary speaking to a person off stage felt a bit forced at first, but was easy enough to adapt to. Unfortunately, that can’t be said about the impersonations that popped up every time she talked about other people. From Swedish prostitute to English gentleman, they all came complete with body language and accent. It’s a device that was distracting and, in my opinion, unnecessary. It also pretty much undid the emotional impact of the final scenes, in which an angry Mary talks about her murdered friend Cath and the injustice of the social system she’s a victim of.
The first piece after the interval was Sylvia, a short play about a mentally handicapped young woman who’s trying to figure out why she hasn’t seen her helper in the last few days. The story itself didn’t do much for me, but the performance by Emma Rose was excellent.
In The Other Foot psychotherapy patient Lori talks to the shoe she stole from one of her colleagues, which she believes makes her better when she puts it on. It’s funny and creepy in equal parts, but again burdened with needless impersonations of characters off stage. Leanna Willington nevertheless manages to make most of them work, especially when delivering Lori’s father’s little gems of wisdom about life (which, apparently, is like sitting on a chair that isn’t there).
The Horror of Economy Class closed the programme on a high note, with a backpacker’s rendition of how he drunkenly ended up in a cabin on an Indonesian ship without a ticket. Think one-man theatre version of The Hangover. This piece was the funniest, partly because of Philip Doherty’s effective use of music.
Overall, I’d say that all writers, directors and performers in this programme deserve to be called ‘young talent’. Nevertheless, there’s still some work to be done. Three of the four pieces used impersonation to talk about characters off stage, and I felt there were other, more interesting, ways to do so. The flow of the text could have been more natural in places too. Speaking of work to be done: The Space is a lovely venue, but running a dishwasher in the kitchen that’s right next to the stage during a performance really isn’t the best idea. However, it’s the inevitability of those little mistakes that make festivals like this one so charming; because theatre-makers are allowed to go wrong here. They are there to test their work, so they can be better next year. And as an audience member you feel quite privileged to witness the process.
Author: Aoise Stratford, Steven Shawcroft, Georgia Keighery, Philip Doherty
Director: Katherine Timms, Damian Cooper, Amie Taylor, Philip Doherty
Box Office: 020 7515 7799
Booking Link: https://space.org.uk/2013/08/03/one-festival-2014/
Booking Until: 2nd February 2014. Programme A on the 25th of January and the 2nd of February only.