Playing as part of ChewFest
Day four of Chewboy Productions’ ChewFest always had the look of a celebration of those behind this week long festival of new and different ideas. Because day four offered work from curators Chewboy themselves, in the form of their award winning Tethered, and two short pieces from Proforca, Lion and Unicorn Theatre’s resident associate company.
Given that both Chewboy and Proforca are in possession of countless 4- and 5-star reviews, it was always a rather safe bet the night would be a winner. Which in a way risks an imbalance with the rest of the week. The previous evening, The Magic Number gave emerging creatives the chance to stage brand new work. But given the choice of untested material from new creatives or from two tried and tested theatremakers, which are you going to choose? Surely better programming would have seen the two nights merged, resulting in a first half of new artists, second half established ones. That way your newbies will be given more leeway from us ghastly reviewers who would see and judge their work as the support act and not productions that needed to hold a whole night together. Something to think about for the next festival perhaps.
But back to tonight. We kick off with Proforca’s double header of Before Feel, a short from 2019, along with brand new Your Side. The first sees Lauren Ferdinand’s Alex, waiting for her, as ever, delayed commuter train to work. She describes the typical struggles of a millennial; high rent, life rushing by, constantly connected to the world electronically, yet at the same time strangely disconnected from all those real people sharing her daily commute. Your Side sees Kieran Dee take on similar themes of feeling alone, of wondering where your life has gone; but this time it is because of the sudden death of his partner whilst still young.
What could so easily be just two short monologues on the drudgery of London living, of feeling lost and alone in a crowded city, are instead two pieces of wonderful writing and performances. Ferdinand delivers us an upbeat glimpse of her life as she decides today is going to be different, whilst Dee breaks our hearts as he laments not living for the moment and appreciating the little things. These are themes that writer James Lewis does so well, taking the mundane and bringing them to wonderful multi-coloured life.
After a short interval we return to find Chewboy’s Georgie Bailey and Hal Darling bantering together as they wait for the audience to retake their seats. Except, is this actually part of the show itself? Has Tethered started without us? Where was the start? Is there a start?
Tethered has already received plenty of praise, and it is easy to see why. It’s a play that developed from the frustrations of being an actor in lockdown. Georgie and Hal, or Sans and Moins (they interchange their names throughout) bicker and make up over and over, as they flip from discussing their situation to rehearsing the play within the play. It’s all rather meta as you try to find meaning within it; as you try to decide where the real pair end and the characters they are portraying begin. And you leave wondering, did it end? Did it ever actually start, or did we just see a rehearsal?
What is clear is that both Proforca and Chewboy really are at the top of their games and know how to make fringe theatre. As one night in a weeklong festival this is a wonderful collection of shows. They set standards that those newer artists should be aiming to achieve with their own works in the coming years.
Before Feel/ By Your Side
Written by: James Lewis
DIrected and Produced by: Proforca Theatre
Written, directed and produced by: Chewboy Productions
CHewFest is a week long celebration of new theatre makers and different art forms. It plays until 28 May. Further information can be found here.