Thursday, 25 September 2014

Dramafest - Session 2 (24 September 2014)

Monsters come in all shapes and sizes - the ones under the bed; the gremlins of self-doubt and fear that whisper in our ear; and real monsters that abuse and mistreat others while covered in a veil of celebrity and genius. Yes, the second session of Dramafest had some serious themes on its mind even when the delivery was light and comic…

My Socks Stay On

You know that little voice in your head, the interior monologue of your life, the one that encourages, nags, distracts, inspires, and occasionally cripples you? Well here that voice is represented in the flesh in all its insistence. Two people meet on a dinner date each with their “little voice” tagging along to provide witty commentary, insight or horror at how the evening is going. He is a school teacher who is a serial first time dater yet can’t remember the bemused waitress’ name. She is the older sister of one of his students. They share all the awkward moments such meetings usually entail until, decorum be damned, they declare that they like each other before amusingly listing all their bad traits and foibles. It’s a fun premise and quite sweet in its execution and resolution. I thought more could have been made of the actors playing the ‘voices’ to really make this playful and the sister-set-me-up-with-her-schoolteacher exposition was a little laboured. Other than that this was a charming start to the evening. Directed by Matthew Randall and I believe written by the actors, this starred Hannah Moran, Annabel Maclean, Josh Lang, Brendan Ellis… and the uncredited waitress, for Stirling Players Youth.

Flop Cop (10 minute spotlight)

Is there anything potentially more monstrous than a tortured artistic soul allowed to vent his misunderstood genius on an unsuspecting public? Yes, that was a rhetorical question - well spotted! Thankfully, a special theatre division of the police force has been created to tackle such heinous crimes. This was a short two-hander that plays directly to a theatre crowd – a tight-lipped officer confronts a flamboyantly over-the-top playwright who threatens to inflict his latest monologue on the world. Full of sly in-jokes and two very contrasting acting styles this worked well though it could have been tightened even further by taking out some repetition in the dialogue especially by the playwright. Unfortunately the actors weren’t named in the programme but this was produced by the Actors' Hub.

Picasso’s Women

An excerpt from the full show that featured several different women and their stories (played over multiple nights) this was an impressive piece of theatre. The first thing that struck me is how precise and dense the writing was - poetic, beautifully descriptive, and highly stylised. It also incorporated French and Spanish as well as the breadth of English firepower on display. The actresses Sharnya Thompson and Nadia Collins didn’t miss a beat with the exacting requirements of the writing. Fairly quickly I suspected that this was actually a monologue that had been assigned to two actors to highlight the different ‘aspects’ of the one person (artist/photographer Dora Maar), a suspicion confirmed afterwards by director Christine Ellis. This worked well with Thompson the cool, still and in many ways sensuous side while Collins was the more emotional and physically energetic of the two. This was reflected in their costumes to give a literal representation of the ‘light and shade’ at work here. Both actresses used the full space available to them and the piece was very fluid with Thomson at times seeming to glide across the space such was her measured pace. Yes, Picasso was a monster to this woman (and others) as the confronting electro-shock therapy and “… then he hit me” sequence clearly illustrated. Sad, powerful and oddly sensual this was mesmerising work. Directed by Christine Ellis, it starred Sharnya Thompson and Nadia Collins and was produced by Blak Yak Theatre Company.


The final production of the night was an ensemble piece directed by Rebecca Cole and produced by Rupert Williamson, with ten young actors on display. We meet all of the characters on stage at the beginning as an early morning radio DJ reaches out to an audience that may not even be there. After the opening introductions there are vignettes that cover: a lone jogger, two girls having a sleepover, two guys doing likewise while playing word association games, a modern day Romeo & Juliet who wonder whether to contact each other to declare their undying love, a teen who is afraid of the monster under the bed, and a girl who writes to a knife company complaining about the quality of their product as she slowly bleeds out from slashing her wrists. All of this taking place at 4am. These vignettes are loosely linked by the DJ’s on air presence and cover loneliness, fear and the monsters we all sometimes have to deal with.

There were some interesting choices but the balance doesn’t quite work as the suicide strand, while well performed, seemed too clever for its own good given the weight of the topic at hand. It also tended to overwhelm the lighter vignettes though the Romeo and Juliet antics did provide welcome comic relief. The monsters under the bed strand was the none-too-subtle thematic message as the teen eventually protects his monster from the cops amusingly brought in to evict it (in an almost A Clockwork Orange style parody) declaring that its existence confirms that he has survived yet another day. Yes, we should embrace our monsters and not seek to destroy them as they are a part of us. The DJ storyline was well handled and I particularly liked how the actors all filtered back to their starting positions to give a nice symmetry to the piece. Indeed, there was a lot to like here and it did give an interesting insight into the issues our youth have to face. The young actors in question were Rebecca Cole, Jenna Verryn, Luke Wilson, Harry McGrath, Dani Fynn, Harry Sanderson, Lara Borshoff, Tashi Stewart, Elise Wilson, and Nick Morlet.

Adjudicator Adam T Perkins gave excellent and constructive notes for all four productions and one point he highlighted across the board was pacing and ‘earn your pauses’. Finally, it was very pleasing to see a really good crowd in for this session. I was so busy chatting I left half a cider behind the bar at intermission and by the time I finished discussing the evening the bar was closed! Sacrificed for a good cause methinks…

Dramafest continues Friday night, 7.30pm at Hackett Hall in Floreat.

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