9th January – 25th January
The One Festival – Programme A
The One Festival at the Space Theatre is an eclectic and intriguing festival of new writing. Its four ‘Programmes’ offer four or five short works apiece, each performed by only one actor. So far, my experience with the One Festival has been very positive; every night I’ve gone I’ve been able to experience an exciting assortment of short pieces from a diverse array of artists. That trend of great theatre experiences continues in Programme A , in which we see five people all trying to come to terms with some very hard truths, in five very different ways.
Treasure by Laura Kaye Thomson, Performed by Jennifer Greenwood, in Association with Music Box Theatre
Treasure, the first piece of the evening, is a complex and moving meditation on grief, family, and mental illness. When we first meet Alex, she is in her “Treasure Trove,” a sort of sentimental safe haven created by her mother, full of precious things. As we learn about this treasure trove, and the objects within, a picture is revealed: one of a young woman coping with a grief so heavy she can’t quite face it. Laura Kaye Thomson’s writing manages to paint a vivid and moving picture of a mother-daughter relationship that is both deeply loving and wrought with pain. Through her words we are not only moved, but made to question: what do you do when you love someone who can’t seem to love herself? Bringing those words to life is Jennifer Greenwood, who masterfully navigates Alex’s journey of nostalgia, pain, anger and acceptance. Her performance is painful and truthful, and she breaks up Alex’s pain with just enough humour and brightness that it never feels too heavy. Treasure is a touching piece, beautifully written and performed, that has a lot to say about loss, and the way we cope with depression in our families.
Meeting Roman Polanski by Janice Hallett, Performed by Jessica White, Directed by Adam Hemming
How are you supposed to say ‘Hi’ to Roman Polanski? That’s the question that this uncomfortably relevant piece revolves around, as we watch a woman trying to reconcile a deep love and appreciation of a director’s work with a deep disgust for his actions. The piece examines the link between art and artist, and how a creator’s actions effect their work. Jessica White’s performance as an interviewer trying to reconcile these conflicting feelings is intelligent and passionate. Watching her, you fully understand her struggle; she speaks so passionately about the way Polanski’s work has affected her, and is so horrified by what he’s done, that as an audience we are trapped in the dilemma with her. Janice Hallett’s writing dives deep into the duality of Polanski, and other talented yet monstrous men like him. She brilliantly raises and interrogates questions without ever coming to firm answer. This thought-provoking and sharply executed piece leaves us suspended in these questions, forcing us to come to our own conclusions.
Inside Alan Written and Performed by Mitch Day, Directed by Anthony Houghton
Malcolm Collins has a secret: Yes, he broke into Alan Titchmarsh’s house, but that’s not his biggest secret. A fascinating and darkly funny piece, Inside Alan investigates why people stalk celebrities, and how it often has less to do with sexual gratification and more to do with a desperate need for intimacy and comfort. Mitch Day creates Alan with sensitivity and humour, portraying a young man so wracked with anxiety he’ll go to great lengths to feel comfortable, even if it means having a bath in a celebrity gardener’s bathroom. Darkly funny, and full of heart, Inside Alan is a surprisingly touching tale of crime, loss, and self acceptance.
A Sweet Life by Guleraana Mir, Performed by Alice Langrish, Directed by Mingyu Lin
A Sweet Life is not a long piece, but in the short time we spend with it we go on quite a journey. Alice Langrish plays Kelly, a plastic surgeon who’s a bit overwhelmed by the stress of it all. Guleranna Mir’s short study of how far people will go to escape the weight of responsibility of the modern world is strange, funny, and slightly disturbing. Alice Langrish’s performance is full of energy and conviction, and Mingyu Lin’s direction keeps the piece driving forward at a breakneck pace. A Sweet Life is an absurd, hilarious dive into the psychology of a woman taking her obsession to the extreme.
The Mighty Oak Conqueror by Mike Carter, Performed by Tom Michael Blyth, Directed by Katherine Timms
The final piece of the evening, The Mighty Oak Conqueror, is a hilarious short comedy about a man who’s got himself stuck in a tree. Mike Carter’s piece is a parody of masculinity as our society defines it, and the foolishness trying to compensate for our insecurities by chasing a rugged cave-man identity. It follows Brian from St Albans, played with great skill and panache by Thomas Michael Blyth, as he tries to justify to passers-by why he’s got himself stuck up a huge oak tree.Blyth’s characterization of Brian as a classic English, sweater-clad namby-pamby is brilliantly realized, and he keeps the laughs coming with a sharp sense of comic timing and a deep understanding of his character. Mike Carter’s writing cleverly and skillfully captures the constantly over-intellectualizing and self-sabotaging nature of a man desperate to receive some kind of respect from anybody, even himself; and Katherine Timms’ directing wonderfully establishes the sense of swaying, unsteady vertigo of both the character’s physical situation and his shaky sense of self. Equal parts clever and hilarious, The Mighty Oak Conqueror is a worthy finale to a very entertaining and engrossing night of theatre.
After taking in Programme A, I am once again massively impressed by the quality of work on show at the One Festival. All of the pieces that make up Programme A show us characters struggling to come to terms with difficult truths, whether that be the loss of a loved one, the truth about our heroes, or our inability to live up to traditional standards of masculinity. Heartbreaking, yet hopeful, and always striking just the right balance of light and dark, Programme A is yet another fantastic offering by the One Festival.