Orange Tree Theatre Live Stream (venue)
28 March 2021 (released)
It is a really clever decision to decide to live-stream these three linked short plays that have been especially written for the first production from the OT in a year. Having such stripped back staging and an absent audience adds much to the atmosphere and engagement with the work.
The piays seamlessly move from one 30minute piece to the next without any breaks ,which keeps the tension and momentum going. Shankho Chauhuri’s set and Jessica Hung Han Yan’s lighting make this a truly theatrical experience and the camera work adds much to maintaining the tension.
The first play Guidesky and I by Deborah Bruce , feels the most complete as a new piece of writing, and has a performance from Samantha Spiro that is full of internal angst and vented frustration. She plays Diana who has been scammed by an on-line supplier whist trying to come to terms with her mother’s death and the difficult task of clearing her mother’s home. The sense of loneliness and loss is raw and very real.
It is followed by When the Daffodils by Joel Tan. This piece’s loneliness is embodied in the character of Meg who has been forced into shielding to protect her and the wider community. It has a dystopian quality where control has become more ‘big brother’ like. Her only connection is with her allocated carer Samia. There are good strong performances from Ishia Bennison as Meg and Jessica Murrain as Samia, however the writing doesn’t allow them to come over as completely formed characters as yet.
The last of the three is Ursa Major by Joe White. This piece has a rewarding mix of humour and pathos with Jay, touchingly played by Fisayo Akinade and the more worldly Callistro played by Sasha Winslow. Their chance meeting develops into an opening up of their lives and the divide between them , whilst being able to share their own particular loneliness. With characters that meet by chance there is inevitable exposition, but their stories are intriguing enough to avoid any clumsiness. This is a play that concludes with hope, so is a perfect final piece.
The direction by Anna Himali Howard, is full of subtlety and has brought out the most in each of them. It is difficult to have Theatre set in this pandemic that transcends current experience. These do that by concentrating on what underpins us a real people, rather than what is inflicted upon us.
With ‘Outside’ to follow in April. This series of 6 especially written plays provides an excellent opportunity for new writing to reach a wider audience, as we hopefully move to the reopening of live theatre itself.