Sunday, 22 September 2019
WriteFest | Progress Theatre | Tuesday, September 10
READING’S Progress Theatre is rightly proud of its ambitious and creative WriteFest, an annual celebration of new writing, now in its 14th year. The programme offers an eclectic mix of short plays, both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Contemporary concerns are prominent in several of the pieces. David Pearson’s “How to Put a Scratch in a Dinghy” has blogger Zara calling out a male nightclubber she considers to have overstepped the mark on the dance floor.
Alex Salisbury is bright and convincing in her online persona, but the narrative reveals the gap between appearance and reality and questions how many of us could withstand close scrutiny of our actions.
Caroline White’s “The Bumblebee” is an emotionally charged and chilling look at the ethics of a medical intervention designed to erase memories and control people’s sense of self. Emma Wyverne’s distressed patient meets her match in Esther Arzola’s smiling but sinister doctor.
Ali Carroll’s insightful domestic monologue “The Cord” examines the
love-hate relationship between daughter and mother, once they become the carer and the cared for.
“Meeting Mrs Grim” by Anthony Travis comically explores the perennial theme of death by overlaying myth with modern commercial and IT practices as the Grim Reaper (Liz Carroll) pays a visit to her next victim (Matthew Beswick).
Most cutting of all is Dan Clarke’s “Perversions”, a revenge tragedy brought up to date, which makes for bleak and disturbing viewing in anguished performances from Samantha Bessant, Matthew Beswick and Poppy Price.
My favourite pieces, though, were the outright comedies. John Goodman’s “Cat in a Box” has Esther Arzola and Faith Mansfield elegantly, humorously and believably depicting feline behaviour as they purr over philosophical points of view.
Meanwhle, Emily Goode’s hilarious “The Costume Department” pitches Liz Carroll as the bossy wardrobe mistress of an amateur theatre group against her beleaguered
co-worker Reb (Trish Grimes). This is a colourful, imaginative and playful look into power relationships between volunteers.
The 14th WriteFest showcases some first class writing, directing and acting. All credit to producers Emily Goode and Neil Jarvis, who orchestrated this rich evening of theatre, and to Debora Rochfort, who kept up the pace as a wry and witty compere.
11 September 2019
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