With nine plays, seventeen actors, six writers and six directors – with some overlap between these groups – this is a busy evening. The plays, which range in length from five to twenty minutes, are loosely themed on finding a voice for stereotypes in the community who usually go unnoticed. And they range from monologues to relatively complex pieces for three or four actors.
The Goblin King, for example – the most powerful play in an evening’s theatre which is not short of strong performance and compelling subject matter – is about a psychotic 40-ish lawyer, totally unable to cope with motherhood. But the only person to notice is the haunting Goblin King – played charismatically by Danny Steele – who represents the tempting, devastating way out for Daphne (Stephanie Toghill) and is probably in her head. Emily Bell is marvellous as Clara, effortlessly switching roles and voices, including a clever, mannered Essex whine for the hospital administrator. And DeVon Jackson is totally convincing as the perfectly reasonable husband. The chilling, and horribly plausible, thing about this playlet is that nobody recognises that Daphne is seriously ill.
Gabrielle Curtis is a talented woman. Not only is she the only actor to appear three times but she wrote each of the plays she appears in. The Bonus of Contention, for example, is a very well observed discussion between two people who have separated but Kara, played in a crisp crystalline voice by Curtis, still wants to have sex with the gravelly Seb (Connor Mills – good). They listen to each other attentively and create real theatrical chemistry.
Carole Street delights in Mike Carter’s monologue, The Revolution Will Not Be Grammatically Correct. She is a retired teacher attracted by the sheer novelty of taking part in a demonstration. Street finds both humour and poignancy in incongruous Lottie as she describes her uncharacteristic behaviour and the people she has met.
Laurence Vardaxoglou’s C’etait Ouf is written (and delivered by Sophia Flohr) with such impeccable naturalism that some audience members were fooled and thought Flohr really was ad-libbing. In fact it is a fine monologue reflecting on the nature of graduate life in London offices and how pointless it is, perhaps compared with the life of a blind busker.
I was also moved by London-Damascus by Nick Myles which features Freddie Wintrip and Reece Mahdi as gay lovers. Adam is in London, Ahmed in Syria and they’ve met and fallen in love on the Internet. Then Ahmed is discovered. His native country ruthlessly punishes gay people and Adam doesn’t know what has happened to him. Wintrip has a lovely warm smile and all his dialogue is nicely timed. And he and Mahdi work interestingly together.
The Old Red Lion Theatre – this was my first visit – is configured with the audience seated in a right angled triangle. The set for all nine plays consists of a flexible tunnel-like space which points toward the angle at the centre of the seating area. It is an effective use of a fairly small square studio theatre and ensures that all the action is very close. It enables actors to use their eyes, for example, very effectively.
An enjoyable, often deeply thoughtful evening of theatre, then. It feels like a cross between a rather good actors’ showcase and a book of short stories but is none the worse for that.