11 January – 27 January
The One Festival – Programme C
After so thoroughly enjoying the One Festival’s Programme B, I was determined to see the rest of the pieces currently playing at The Space in Canary Wharf. My next step was seeing Programme C, an eclectic collection of amusing, absorbing, and occasionally harrowing short pieces. Though all five pieces featured in Programme C are very different in tone and subject matter, they all have two big things in common. They all share a focus on the vividly drawn, oftentimes eccentric characters at their centre, and they’re all full of surprises.
Mansplaining: The Musical by Mike Carter, Performed by Stephanie Ware, Directed by Saffron Myers
The first piece of the evening, Mansplaining: The Musical, is a raucous and delightful good time. Its subject is talented, take-no-guff Broadway leading lady Ginger Valentine, played with charm and gusto by Stephanie ware. Ware portrays brilliantly the hard-working performer, constantly bedevilled on her journey to stardom by the men who want to steal her spotlight and undermine her success. Mike Carter’s writing gives the character wit, humour and strength, and his decision to set the piece on Broadway in the 1930’s emphasizes the universality of its feminist message, and echoes the revelations the world is collectively having about the entertainment industry today. That message is bolstered by comedic songs and musical numbers, imbuing the whole proceedings with pageantry, flash and fun. Overall, Mansplaining: The Musical is a defiant, charming and entertaining piece full of real character and old-school Broadway flair.
Home Time by David Hendon, Performed by Elizabeth George, Directed by Paula Chitty
Home Time, written by David Hendon and directed by Paula Chitty, is a harrowing piece about motherhood, shock and grief. Jennifer is a single mother with a young son, played with great feeling and sensitivity by Elizabeth George. She begins the piece sharing with us the many mundane joys, degradations and celebrations that motherhood entails. However, we soon realize that there’s something terrible she’s not telling us, and seeing her come to terms with this dreadful truth provides us with an honest and unflinching portrayal of shock and grief. Watching the piece, it feels like we spend a bit too much time with Jennifer before this event, and not quite enough time seeing her deal with the aftermath; an odd choice, considering the meat of the piece seems to come after the twist. However, despite a slightly meandering feel towards the beginning, this moving meditation on motherhood has much to offer for theatre-goers looking to have their heart-strings tugged.
Binkie and the Snowbirds by John Dixon, Performed by Tim Blackwell, Directed by Danielle McIlven
The third piece of the evening, Binkie and the Snowbirds by John Dixon, is all about subverting expectations. It revolves around a man and his dog, Binkie, who happens to be stuffed. The man, played with offbeat humour and sharp intelligence by Tim Blackwell, is telling his story to a “snowbird” in a Miami cocktail bar, promising more tantalizing details in exchange for just one more drink. We never know if we can trust him, as Binkie is constantly subverting expectations, to darkly comic or unexpectedly moving effect. As the piece unfolds, we come to learn that our possibly unreliable narrator carries a great loneliness beneath his chummy exterior, a loneliness which sometimes drives him to unusual extremes. Surprising and funny, Binkie and the Snowbirds is brought to vivid life by John Dixon’s witty writing and Tim Blackwell’s energetic performance.
Sixth Position Written and Directed by Louise Jameson, Performed by Holly Jackson Walters
Next is Sixth Position, an elegant meditation on potential, and the impossibility of knowing if it’s ever been met. Holly Jackson Walters plays a ballerina, or is she an ex-ballerina? This question is at the centre of Sixth Position, as it explores whether we need an audience to dance, or if just dancing is, on its own, enough. As we are told about this character’s past, we see more and more of who she is: her great uncertainty and doubt is gradually revealed to us. Holly Jackson Walters brings remarkable feeling to her role, particularly in her physicality, which gracefully and expressively captures a soft, light, hesitant joy. Sixth Position is a gentle, affecting, subtle piece about art and doubt, brought to life by a detailed performance from Holly Jackson Walters and engrossing writing from Louise Jameson.
Skyclad by Serena Haywood, Performed by Alexandra Donnachie, Directed by Lou-Lou Mason
The final show on the Programme, Skyclad by Serena Haywood, is a comic exploration of the ways young people seek acceptance and meaning in a confusing and uncertain world. Alexandra Donnachie plays Sophia ‘Fuschia’ Travis, a university physics student who’s just joined her university’s witchcraft association. Donnachie brings a charming awkwardness and self-deprecating humour to her character, and despite Fuschia’s eccentricities the audience is with her the whole way. Serena Haywood’s writing is funny in an understated, surprising way, and she accurately captures the way in which young people seeking acceptance band together in unusual ways. However, Fuschia’s new acceptance is not long-lived, and both Donnachie and Haywood seem to take great pleasure in exploring how this character filters her feelings of jealousy and betrayal through her newfound knowledge of Wicca. Skyclad is very funny, and provides a clear vision of the ways young people deal with loneliness, betrayal, and romantic conflict.
Programme C presents a diverse set of interesting, eccentric characters in moments of indecision, loneliness, betrayal and grief. The five pieces on show all have very different tones, but all are engrossing and all feature detailed, well-drawn characters. All together, I find Programme C to be another strong offering from the One Festival, an eclectic and exciting evening of character-driven theatre.