As more amateur groups seem to be including one-act plays in their repertoire, the playlist one can choose from is rather impressive. By widening the variety of plays offered, this lets the group offer the audience the opportunity of a wider subject matter, giving new directors a chance to hone their skills and maybe even encouraging previously reticent (and time poor) playgoers with the shorter pieces. I love knowing I am going to watch a (hopefully entertaining) performance for an hour or so and still be home at a decent hour!
It is therefore with excitement that I patiently awaited Nick Cook-West’s directorial debut for Orpington Amateur Repertory Club. After arriving at Downe village hall it was apparent the programme did not give much away, so we had a fun time guessing what we might be about to see whilst marvelling at the former school’s vaulted beams and stained glass window.
First up for our entertainment was Mirror, Mirror by Bruce Kane. A modern fairytale for our materialistic society, it was a deliciously wicked reincarnation of a few different traditional story ideas. It had a noticeable pantomime feel, not unaided by the distinctly Gok-like mirror humorously played by Marc Cook-West. John McGarry’s Darwinesque narrator (very apt in Downe…) was very amusing and his immediate aside to the audience, showed his natural wit. Stephen Fry’s celebrated Cinderella need not worry about being overshadowed but it was a fun piece.
Mr Kolpert was the second offering in the Modern Times trilogy. David Gieselmann and David Tushingham’s pacey piece centered around a rather disturbing couple and their nearly as bizarre friends. Needless to say Mr Kolpert is the unseen titular character whose death may, or may not, have occurred. The first thing I noticed about this play was the good use of space onstage. There were many different levels achieved by the furniture chosen that visually complemented the multi-faceted layers that evolved throughout the story. The characters were believable on the whole and the humour of the piece seen throughout. Michelle Heath’s Edith and her alarming obsession with tiramisu was especially entertaining.
The last arm of this triangle of peculiar couples was Caught in The Act, another Bruce Kane offering. Thinking with such a title we would be seeing a mini-farce, the idea of two characters trapped in a writer’s play was rather a novel choice. Again there were many comic moments, not impeded by the simple yet effective set. The end scene when the characters entered into the auditorium was an effectual close to the play, giving the audience a clear clue to the characters’ concluding roles. The play provided the audience with food for thought about what really goes on in a writer’s mind and how whatever a character does might be the end of a long, arduous process to have arrived there…
As with all plays, a gentle balance of good writing, clever casting and clear direction are what one needs for a successful performance. As previously mentioned, the programme had very little to go on, other than to mention the director’s debut efforts. Any play is a tall challenge for a director, especially one’s first play and especially three one-act plays in one evening. The actors did remarkably well to learn their lines as each play was verging on an hour long. The three sets were all very different as one would hope and employed simple yet effective ways to use the relatively small space.
On first glance, one might wonder why these three plays had been performed together. But delve into the complexities of each character and you find that actually we were presented with a smorgasbord of jealousy, loathing and desire. A perfectly pleasant evening, it was a shame more people from Orpington Rep did not choose to support them.