After visiting Shakespeare for Breakfast on Saturday morning, on Sunday I headed to the Pleasance Dome for a collection of short playlets. With five separate pieces within a single hour, it proved a great way to see some new writing and standout performances.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a strong element of comedy in the plays I saw (the cast offered three programmes of plays), but there were some terrific displays of poignancy as well.
Bad Bride by Bridgette Burton is a great comic opener, as Lisa Beresford’s bride struggles to recover from taking every stimulant possible in a doomed effort to ensure her wedding goes without a hitch. Sterling performances from Beresford and Sean Williams as her despairing groom rescue Bridgette Burton’s script from the corner it paints itself into, with a resolution that just about stays believable.
In Thin Air by Thomas Coash, Alice Robinson gives a tremendous solo performance as a funambulist (that’s “tightrope walker” to you). Essentially a potted history of the craft that becomes a treatise on the need to recover from life’s setbacks, it’s the most serious play of the five, and it’s no coincidence that it’s also the best.
In Chris White’s Thespian, Williams plays a roofer and plasterer with acting pretensions, whose foreman friend (Andy Hutchinson) helps him embellish an otherwise empty professional CV by improvising various roles including Stanley Kowalski, Hamlet and, erm, Anne Frank. It’s Hutchison’s foreman who is the real star here, revealing an unexpected knowledge and love of dramatic works.
The Bar by CJ Johnson sees Beresford as a crazed personal trainer who will seemingly stop at nothing to prevent her client (Robinson) from succumbing to the temptation of a large bar of chocolate. The characters themselves were a little too close to caricature, but both actresses helped to lift the piece.
Finally, Perfect Stillness sees Hutchison as a widower, struggling to compose a eulogy for his wife’s funeral – the primary reason for his difficulty being that his dead wife keeps offering her critique of his writing. Jane Miller’s writing here starts out as a comedy, but is never far away from finding the truth in relationships, most notably the white lies told with the best of intentions that turn blacker the longer they remain secret. By the end, as Hutchison’s character allows his grief to catch up with him, we end up with a powerful and emotional finale to an hour of impressive writing and performance.