I wanted to go and see everything that was on this year at RE:PLAY festival. I managed to see three plays in the end, partly because we went on an impromptu trip to Malaga…
Split into four tales, Tale Two: Men and their Atrocities was interesting in the way it was set up. A woman alone on stage is delivering a monologue to someone and responding to questions, it sounds as if she might be a witness to something. We’re not sure what. Then a man appears on the scene, detective type figure questioning her, as they go through her flashbacks he switches roles and becomes a man she meets in a pub. It was a piece that kept you interested as you got the sense of a wider message behind her lone voice (There are no bystanders). Her last line was the title of the piece, Katherine Godfrey delivered it bleakly enough to convince you.
I liked the way the themes in the four tales circled backwards and forwards between the pieces, especially the way the first piece, an interview on a chatshow with a man-ape, and the last piece, the hunger artist trying to sell himself to an agent, both got me questioning life as a performance and where do we draw boundaries, moral ones, private ones. ‘Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape the situation.’ (quoting Wiki!) which was brilliantly done in the third piece: The Work, my favourite tale. The arguments between the couple were convincingly (scarily!) familiar.
I went to see JB Shorts last year as well so I kind of knew what to expect in terms of plot. There was the usual array of death, sex, betrayal, moral choice… then unexpectedly an anthem to football at the end. Red, by James Quinn, was perhaps the most interesting in the way the football teams took on personalities delivered by actors. I don’t have much investment in City V United so I didn’t really get some of the jokes, but a lot of the audience responded to it, one guy joining in with the last football song at the end. The Bombmaker felt slightly predictable to me, who is the real bad guy and is there a bad guy kind of story. I was happy with the tragic ending though, which I didn’t expect the writer to go for. The opening piece, A Christmas Carol, was great for Howarth William’s depiction of single woman on the pull, really funny and moving. It was easy to believe in her mopping the sick up with her hands. Lastly, Maddie, was the Eastender’s type of plot mixed with Heat magazine confessional, celebrity mother, damaged daughter, strange boyfriend. I thought the daughter could have been written as a fresher character, she was quite frustratingly undeveloped.
Written by Richard Cameron, this piece I was really interested in seeing. As it got started I could see it was losing Sara, the three entwinning monologues took a while to join up and so unless you invest in the characters straight away it all starts to blur a bit. I felt this myself, and then as the sirens spread from one monologue to the other, you begin to feel the current of the story pull you in. I’m starting to use water imagery, and this was in the writing where the character Lynette returns to the canal as a place representing both peace and violence. The male character Ron, who pulls all of the lives of the women together through his violence towards each of them, either at a remove or up close, was an invisible force, and worked really well that way. My only concern was that you could demonise him too easily perhaps, however this was outweighed for me by the chance to hear three women’s voices coming out of the silence. The domestic violence scene was brilliant, really bravely delivered. Here’s another review of the play.
There was something poignant about the way women picking up clothes and folding them was a motif that was used in both Kafkaesque and Can’t Stand Up. One of the strongest visuals from the plays I’ve got is that of women packing and unpacking, putting laundry away and putting it out, as if they are always between release and constraint. I also enjoyed the way several scenes used the audience, either as a press conference as Maddie revealed all, or as the cameras filming the monkey man and interviewer in Tale One, or as a mirror (Can’t Stand Up) where each woman came to the front of the stage and smoothed her hair, buttoned her jumper, put on a necklace.