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Review: Act II Festival (Session 2), Hounslow Arts Centre

Spread over three sessions, Act II Festival is a collection of scratch plays made by emerging artists; writers, directors and actors.

Below you’ll find the five reviews of the plays performed on 11 April 2024.

You can also find a review of the festival itself here, Session 1 reviews here, and Session 3 here.

Mother Fucking Teresa ★★★

Teresa is back at the school she attended as a student, but now she is a rather inappropriate sex-ed teacher, about to give the class a no-holds barred lesson on how she lost her virginity.

As long as you don’t mind the bluntness, both in language and description, then there is plenty of humour to be had with Alexendra John’s script. Adult Teresa is a force of nature, and the introduction of teen Teresa, so they can share storytelling duties, is a clever little device to allow the story to flow along.

But the use of the sex-ed class as a framing device is flawed and causes the whole piece to feel rather disjointed. The play really shines when it switches to teen Teresa and the fateful weekend in question, and there is a strong argument that this should be the play without the preamble of the sex-ed class. Clearly, John’s initial idea was to make the play a comic warning against UTI’s, but by framing it this way it just doesn’t gel together cohesively. Instead, it feels like two different plays rather clumsily mashed together.

Emma Deacon and Mia O’Gorman do give two lovely performances to help keep up the interest, whilst Krissah Rolle’s direction keeps the pair moving around each other smoothly. It means that whilst there are issues with plotting, it’s still a fun little show.

Written by: Alexendra John
Directed by: Krissah Rolle
Cast: Emma Deacon, Mia O’Gorman

Imagine A World Where That Didn’t Happen ★★★

With 13 shows across the Act II festival, all made by young creatives, it’s really no surprise that at least one touches upon knife crime. Rachel Otterson’s Imagine A World Where That Didn’t Happen tackles it through two students, Cane and Able, who relive one fateful day when a knife changed both of their lives.

What really stands out here is the direction (also by writer, Otterson). The pair circle around each other as they play out the events that will lead to a sad conclusion, with Jack Laurent and Nayeem Ayshford’s performances bringing out the small details of the moment. Ayshford, especially, delivers his part powerfully and is a compelling watch.

It’s a play with plenty of promise, but it does rely too much on repetition in its current form. There is the concept that they repeat the same events over and over to see if they could have happened differently, but it still needs a little more nuance to avoid becoming just a case of the same scene over and over.

But there are also some clever ideas elsewhere within the writing; the repetition of date and time are clearly to make it sound like a police interview, and it’s this that really needs to be pulled out in the writing, to frame the play more fully.

Written and directed by: Rachel Otterson
Cast: Jack Laurent, Nayeem Ayshford

Cracks ★★

The opening scene of Cracks, as we watch Ella and Claudia alone, declaring their love for one another, is an intriguing set up. But it is one that is never realised. Scenes flash through, but there’s no firm hold on what is actually happening, which risks leaving the audience confused about it all.

It’s clear that writer Sofia Natoli has some grand ideas about what she wants her play to be, and maybe in a longer format they’d work. There are plenty of references to magic, to a portal to other worlds (the mysterious crack upstairs), and to a missing housemate, but it’s all lost under the weight of everything else she seems to want to say. Very much as if this was written as an hour-long play, and in the edit down to 15 minutes important reference points have been cut that would have allowed us to know what was going on.

There are though some great performances, especially Kia’s comic turn that brings much relief from the confusion.

Written by: Sofia Natoli
Directed by: Simone Sena
Cast: Lena Lapres, Sofia Robbins, Rosie Twig, Alice Malyon

A Matter of Chance ★★★

Maeelyn Morgan’s A Matter of Chance takes us into the heart of rehearsals for four young and very differing actors. It’s a clever framing device that allows us into the inner thoughts, fears and ambitions of young artists; something that sits nicely within the concept of the wider Act II.

Morgan’s characters possess plenty of depth, making it easy to recognise all their little traits. There are also some fine performances from the four-strong cast of Amelia Sabey, Kitty Falcon, Harini Poyyamozhi and Olivia Rainbow that really play into these traits, each really delving into the characters, even across the few minutes each is given to shine.

Just to complete the package, Thomas Lafferty’s direction means that even with constant movement from the four, they never trip over one another. Whilst not quite the best play of this evening, it’s one that perhaps has the greatest potential to be developed further.

Written by: Madelyn Morgan
Directed by: Thomas Lafferty
Cast: Amelia Sabey, Kitty Falcon, Harini Poyyamozhi, Olivia Rainbow

Soggy Chips ★★★★

It’s probably more by coincidence than planning, but the motto of save the best to last certainly stands true tonight. Soggy Chips is a stunning 15 minute monologue from the pen of Maisie Allen, brought vividly to life by Jemima Langdon’s performance and Anya Ostrovskaia’s light touch direction.

It’s the classic “Shithole-On-Sea” set up; a dying seaside town that relies on its tourists to survive, whilst its young residents dream of escaping. It’s a theme that seems to crop up regularly on the stage of fringe theatres, but even so, when it’s done with the deftness of Soggy Chips, it’s still a powerful message.

Langdon spends much of the performance behind the small table that acts both as the chip shop counter where she works, and the stage for the characters she brings to life by means of pictures on sticks. She masterfully draws us into her life, and her interactions with the tourists who visit the chip shop. Her despair at the hopelessness of it all is heartbreaking.

Soggy Chips is the stand-out show of the evening, a play that feels the perfect combination of writer, director and performer. We can only hope this one has further life beyond the festival.

Written by: Maisie Allen
Directed by: Anya Ostrovskaia
Cast: Jemima Langdon

About Rob Warren

Someone once described Rob as "the left leaning arm of Everything Theatre" and it's a description he proudly accepted. It is also a description that explains many of his play choices, as he is most likely to be found at plays that try to say something about society. Willing though to give most things a watch, with the exception of anything immersive - he prefers to sit quietly at the back watching than taking part!