Literature Live

The danger in putting on so many short extracts is for potential dissatisfaction; a scene taken out of context can lose its sense and may not have enough dramatic structure in such a short time span to hold the audience’s attention. However, Literature Live surprised with the number of pieces that felt like complete pieces of drama.

The extract from ‘Blithe Spirit’ did well to upkeep this with its intelligent, lively directing, and Tom Brada and Patrick Baker created an original jealousy between the female characters. Antonia Northam was ridiculous as Madame Arcati but completely captivating, stirring us into hysteria, as she seemed to use her fellow characters (and us) for her amusement. Arabella Langley was another performer who grabbed with the humour of her physicality in ‘Tusk Tusk’.

Ollie Jones-Evans did well to animate a strange choice of extract from Yann Martel’s ‘Beatrice and Virgil’. It involved a drawn out exercise, spanning the whole 10 minute slot, in describing a pear. Jones-Evans’ acting cleverly teetered on the brink between ironic and reverent, working us into a frenzy of laughter at one moment, whilst also being made to genuinely reflect on the difficulty of relaying one’s own private experiences. I’ve never thought about a piece of fruit… or any inanimate object in so much detail.

There were two pieces of new writing in amongst the acts: Ragevan Vasan’s semi-modern update of Romeo & Juliet, ‘Me Julie’, created comedy in the disparity between the modernised updates and the jarringly familiar Shakespearean lines; Leah Eades’ ‘A Date with J. Alfred Prufrock’ was an ingenious piece of new writing, the familiar lines from of the poem are twisted to amuse by rendering him as slightly insane. The clever clash of her Americanness intelligently brought out his character’s intensely awkward Englishness. I look forward to more highly original writing from her.

By far the best ensemble piece was Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Tell Tale Heart’. The timing and interaction between actors was carefully controlled, with sound being used successfully to create tensions and suspense, resulting in a polished and full piece.

But the star of the show was Vanessa Kissule, with her spoken poetry. The intimate space (The Little Black Box Theatre) played perfectly to her own revealed intimacies. Her latest poem, ‘Strawberries’, an intimate reflection on a first boyfriend brims with humour, yet is so crisply accurate and universal that it struck a nerve and I shed a tear. She seems to live her poetry so naturally, giving it rhythms to carry us over the dark nerves she touches upon.

Literature Live was a Falstaff production and was performed in The Little Black Box Theatre between 14th – 15th November.

Originally published by The Play Group

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Bash

Latter-Day Plays, the subtitle of Bash, remembers the Mormon Latter Day Saints, a world central to Labute’s early life.

His aim is to draw us into an act of voyeurism, but the unremittingly grim characters left me without empathy. The only hope was that the final monologue might come from the abused rather than the abuser, and I was sadly disappointed.

However, this is no testament against the acting and directing of this incredibly difficult piece. Each actor had to portray psychological gymnastics to create the seeming obliviousness of the characters to their harrowing crimes, which they later reveal.

Adam Farrell, with his unsure hands and unnervingly constant smile, managed to appear to look invasively into a single pair of eyes, carefully crafting another character in us the audience, as his drunken companion. This created an uncomfortable intimacy, helped also by the tiny venue.

The second play was again unnerving. This was Alex Woolf’s most sparkling moment; he was uplifting and joyful in his description of a beyond-brutal gay bashing, a good directorial decision as it made for bearable watching.

The suppressed chatter and endless grooming of his wife, played by Polly Edsell, served as a clever reminder of her place as passive object, in a patriarchy unaware (perhaps by choice) of the darker side to her fellow Christians.

The last performance came from the most likeable abuser in the play. Katie Sherrard’s childlike performance interpreted the character as frozen in her past, still nurturing the memory of a kiss from her abuser as though it were a cherished moment, passing over details of her murder of their child as payback.

Labute reels in his audience as he reveals the monsters that lurk beneath the skin of his morally oblivious subjects. But although all three pieces grip painfully, they also feel contrived. Their failing is that, unlike their Greek counterparts, they make you feel no pity. If he is trying to show us the ugly side of human nature, they must first be human.

Originally published by The Play Group