Reviews

NVT / SPC 10-Minute Play Competition 2013


The overall winning plays from this competition, as voted for by the audiences after each performance were:

 

1st Place - Brief Encounter by Roger Mortimer-Smith

Directed by Sean Lippett-Fall

Cast:

Miriam - Helen Pepper-Smith

Neil - Ben Pritchard

 

2nd Place - Ten Moon Minutes by Craig Ainsley

Directed by Dan Walker

Cast:

Jim - David Floyd Miller

Mitch - Terence Drew

 

3rd Place - The Pig Sleep by Doc Watson

Directed by Jezz Bowden

Cast:

Tom - Tom Slater

Jack - Mark Green

Marjorie - Hellen Ward



Our 2013 competition had an entry in excess of 120 plays. This was reduced to the shortlist from which the above plays have been selected. A complete list of those plays shortlisted can be seen below. We thank everyone who took the time to enter the competition and the judges who deliberated over some tough calls in making up the shortlist.

Shortlisted plays:


Frying Pan Jesus by Neil Walden
The Caterer's Reckoning by Jonah Jones
Getting The Boot by Trevor Harvey
The Pool Boy by Edwin Preece
Make Up by Robert Hartley
Charlie by Orriss Mitchell
The Queen Sends Her Regards by Eleanor Treagust
The Silent Land by Paul Fox
The Interview by Claire Buckland
As Time Goes By by Melody Bridges
The Pig Sleep by Doc Watson
The Cleaner by Doc Watson
One. Two. Three by William Patterson
My New York Spare Room by Kevin Jones
Ten Moon Minutes by Craig Ainsley
The Negotiation by Doc Andersen-Bloomfield
An Immaculate Conception by Roger Mortimer-Smith
Brief Encounter by Roger Mortimer-Smith
Three Night Stand by Adam Springfield
Ethics by David Butler

Seagulls & Heart's Desire - Review

Playwright Caryl Churchill uses language as Picasso uses paint; her tales of the unexpected encompass traditional, abstract, surreal or historic.

In Seagulls and Heart’s Desire, she moves beyond visual artistry into a realm only possible with words – the subjunctive. What if Valery, in Seagulls, really can’t move objects by thought: what if her gift is fugitive, imaginary, or even analogous? Is not doing something as interesting as doing it? Sandra Ventris is compelling in her portrayal of a simple woman, confronted by questions she never thought to ask.

Heart’s Desire re-runs the moment when a long-expected daughter returns from Australia. Or does she? The family hopes and fears and waits as one ghastly scenario follows another – about 25 of them in all. Crashes, arrests, shootings, partners and a giant bird illustrate the anxiety contingent upon an event so eagerly anticipated.

David Agnew is superb as the recurring Brian, worry accelerating his irritation with the long-suffering Alice played by Liz Stapleton. Lavanya Boon has the thankless task of explaining the trouble of waiting, Godot style, for something arriving from somewhere, while Cliff Jones brilliantly tackles two unsympathetic roles as crass questioner and drunk brother.

Review for The Augus by Louise Schweitzer - Monday 7 October 2013

The Permanent Way - Review

David Hare has created a powerful piece of "verbatim theatre" that deals with the privatisation of railways and subsequent train crashes – Southall, Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield, and Potters Bar. A wide range of statements from Ministers etc and accounts from survivors and the bereaved form the narrative with Hare providing the links. Many of the first hand accounts arose from interviews carried out by the actors in the original National Theatre production.

The early humour that poked fun at the private sector's officials and the Treasury and Civil Service's enthusiasm for privatisation, despite lack of knowledge of running a railway, soon evaporated as the horror of the crashes flashed up through projected vivid footage and ear shattering sound effects. The buffoons became villains.

The shocking visual images and horrendous sounds heightened the narratives especially the heart wrenching ones from the "victims" - a term used by officials that both survivors and bereaved found offensive.

What was surprising to learn were the different attitudes of the two parties - the bereaved seeking someone to blame and punish whilst the survivors just wanting someone to say sorry and to ensure that these accidents never happened again. A vain hope for, as one character points out, a repeat pattern emerges – accident; inquiry; recommendations – no action.

A cast of ten switched characters seamlessly and their excellent performances and collective effort makes individual naming invidious. Every actor had a chance to make an impact especially when they stood in the limelight with heartbreaking monologues, angry tales or self serving excuses, bland platitudes or attempts to shift the blame.

Still vivid in the memory are the stories of:

The young man who went straight on to work after a crash and whose life only changed for the worst three month after when the realisation of what he had been through kicked in;

The bereaved mother determined to campaign long after her husband wanted to draw a line;

The Transport Policeman whose initial indifference changed to a crusade for change that was so frustrated by officialdom that he gave up and resigned;

The young lady whose facial injuries were so bad that she had to wear a plastic mask and who had to hide for five days when her picture was splashed all over the newspapers;

The writer, Nina Bawden, unconscious after the crash and the moving account of the loss of her husband who she never saw die.

...and many more.

What the cast and director, Kirsty Elmer, produced was a mesmerising experience that showed ensemble playing at its very best. They were a company who successfully accomplished, collectively and individually, every demand made upon it.

It was not just the words that had a powerful effect but also the dumb show and mime taking place in the background- slow motion and frozen action. No set was needed just an acting space and a raised platform bestrewn with rubbish and used rail tickets. The programme in the style of a timetable was an inspired touch as was the use of station tannoy announcements and instructions to the audience.

February 2012 marks the tenth anniversary of my writing reviews for New Venture. This production was a fitting celebration as it summed up what I have seen over the years – high quality acting and challenging productions.

It was particularly pleasing to see in the cast so many familiar and respected faces – Sheelagh Baker, Carl Boardman, Lyn Snowden (Fernee), Nik Hedges and Janet Hewlett Davies. My thanks go to them, their newer colleagues and to all those, on stage and off, who have over the last decade given so much pleasure to me.

Barrie Jerram
21 February 2012

The Building - Review

What do you get if you cross an Edward Hopper painting with WH Davis, Shakespeare, a theatrical company and a block of flats? You get The Building, a piece of promenade theatre devised by Sarah Davies.

Purposeful tour guides – an investment agent, council operative and historian – direct the audience through the backstage maze of the New Venture Theatre, sorry, a derelict clutch of ramshackle flats, briefly interacting with the variously dysfunctional residents: a tipsy trustafarian (with a, like, permanent rising inflection), a camp transvestite, mad writer, autistic boy, thieving Irish knave, lonely widow and cross young mother.

Stereotypes, perhaps, but glimpsed with such liveliness and humour as to be totally engaging.

The audience, arrayed around the rooms, occasionally improvise dialogue. Would the heat wave back? Were we interrupting tea? This way, ladies and gentlemen, that wall is coming down, we’re keeping the oak beams, mind the stairs. The curtain never comes down.

This is brilliant, creative and unusual theatre from a wonderful cast and production team who beautifully blur the boundaries between the real and the imaginary.

A final chorus parodies “all the world’s a stage” but perhaps The Building is a stage for all the world.

Argus Review - by Louise Schweitzer (The Argus - Monday 22 July)

The End of the Beginning - Review

The title’s Irish, to start with. How can there be an end before a beginning? It’s a clue to the reversal of the norm, the expectation confounded, an inversion of the natural order: and it’s the point of Sean O’Casey’s comedy. Then there’s the balladeer singing in the bar as the audience wait to take their seats upstairs. Patrick Hannigan sang his lilting Irish folk tunes to the gentle accompaniment of clinking glasses and everyone joined in the chorus of Molly Malone. We could have been in Dublin. In fact, we were in Bedford Place, Brighton, to celebrate the opening of The Theatre Upstairs in The New Venture Theatre.

The play was a marvellous choice to launch theatre in the brand new spaces upstairs. Like all the best comedies, it is rooted in comprehension of character, and, like all the best comedies, it is not an entirely comfortable experience. My husband wriggled with recognition as Darry overwound the clock, hit it to make it go again and admired his biceps in the mirror. Do I quote that ‘ men just work ‘til set of sun whilst woman’s work is never done’? Probably.

Darry, irritated with his wife Lizzie, bets he can do her job better than she could do his. Mowing the meadow? Child’s play. You try cooking, washing, feeding the pigs, and managing the household. Telling Darry not to forget the heifer which slips its halter, Lizzie stomps out. Darry practises calisthenics to a hilarious keepfit record for the doubtful benefit of local crumpet until his singing friend Barry appears with a mandolin. Both men are equally inept and Barry can’t see, with or without his spectacles. Disaster piles upon disaster and a fine mess they get each other into before a grand finale when the heifer, tied to a rope through the chimney, heaves Darry off his legs and up into the stack.

Director Rod Lewis first saw the play in German whilst working in Berlin more than twenty years ago. He thought it was one of the funniest shows he had ever seen – and he didn’t speak German. There is a great deal of silent mime as Darry struts about in his braces, alone on stage, trying to exercise his torso or wash up and failing in both. Des Potton is sublimely inept, an Oliver Hardy figure of macho uselessness yet somehow infinitely touching and vulnerable. His Stan Laurel sidekick manages rather better with the gymnastics and rather worse with the dishes in a sidesplittingly funny performance by Carl Boardman. And then, just as any woman would write the pair of them off completely, they sing a charming duet ‘ Down where the bees are humming’, accompanying themselves on the mandolin. Men, says O’Casey, may not be much use in the kitchen – but they can make your heart sing when they want to.

Meanwhile, comic tension grows as we await Lizzie’s return. We guess the meadow will be perfectly mown, offstage. Anticipating Lizzie’s reactions to the chaos, in a Casey coup de theatre, is largely left to our imagination and the curtain comes down, metaphorically, in The Theatre Upstairs. Poor Janice Jones, more than a match for Darry or Barry, has to be shrill and competent, yet we love her independence and her feisty courage. Her stance might not seem so heroic today, but Sean O’Casey wrote the play in 1937, in a rural Ireland where gender roles were written in stone. Is Lizzie a metaphor for Ireland itself, in those days of bitter struggles for national identity and freedom? Even if she doesn’t represent a nation, she does stand for a sex oppressed by tradition and prejudice, something beautifully represented by Janice Jones in a performance both touching, tough and funny.

Huge credit to the creative team under the clever direction of Rod Lewis: the vintage set in particular was memorable for Bakelite props, and lace antimacassars (who remembers those?) Another round of applause for dialect coach Paddy O’Keeffe; I would never have known that Des Potton, Carl Boardman and Janice Jones were not native Dubliners, a ruse highlighted by their clever Gaelic-ised names in the theatre programme. Manager Pat Boxall clearly overcame all the inevitable hiccups of a first night in a new theatre and the production looked as smooth as a swan gliding across a lake - if it was paddling furiously underneath, none of us in the audience would have known. Besides, we were laughing fit to burst.

Afterwards, there was Irish music off stage as Louise Wells and Adam Mould played the fiddle and the bodhram in the bar. Let’s be having yous, then.

by Louise Schweitzer