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Reboot Festival is now well underway at Barons Court Theatre, with the second week of the new writing showcase starting on Tuesday 12th September. I returned to the festival last night and thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to see more examples of new writing. This time it is four short plays in an evening instead of six, which run for approximately one hour and twenty minutes in total. As before, I will be featuring each of the shows in a single round-up, rather than writing separate reviews for each play.
The Dying Speech of a Living Legend by Daniel Connelly
The second line-up opens with a bang, or an air raid sound in this situation, and Daniel Connelly’s The Dying Speech of a Living Legend. It is incredibly bold and focuses on the last words of a horrible fictional leader, who has clearly inflicted a lot of pain and anger onto their subjects. The obnoxious character is played by Adam Walker-Kavanagh and he shares the stage with Oliver Maynard, who takes on the role of the loyal sergeant. The leader spills all to their phone voice notes against the backdrop of wartime sirens, whilst the sergeant spends the majority of the show with their head in their hands, in complete silence and mime.
It is intense and difficult to watch in places as the main character is incredibly unlikeable, but this is credit to Walker-Kavanagh’s acting and vile representation of the figure. The dynamic between the performers is also intriguing, particularly the mistreatment of the soldier by the leader, but there isn’t enough time within the play for this to be explored in detail. I would be interested to see how director Anna Clart would develop the relationship with additional stage time. Thematically this play was my least favourite of the night, but its decision to focus on a tyrannical leader at the end of their life is certainly innovative and brings with it unique discussions surrounding the topics of immortality and the impact one person can have on society.
Spark by Siân Rowland
Siân Rowland’s 1980s-themed play Spark focuses on former lovers who meet in their teenage years. A short comedy which brilliantly captures awkward teenage experiences and first loves, the majority of the work is funny, but there is an underlying theme of sadness as the characters grow up and reflect on early experiences. With direction by Isabella Forshaw, the play stars India Lewis and Fergus Head and the performers have fantastic chemistry on stage.
The script features poetic monologues, with the lighting changing to a vivid blue when it is time for the characters to turn to the audience and individually share some thoughts. The phrases are almost rhythmic in their tone and the transitions between Lewis and Head’s words are so light and smooth, that their individual monologues feel like a collective array of thoughts.
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the play on the whole, I struggled with the jumps between the past and present. Greater clarity around the time periods of the piece would make it easier to understand how the characters have changed throughout time and in turn, answer any questions left unanswered.
Road Trip by Katherine Vondy
Katherine Vondy’s Road Trip is an emotional story about two women who are in the early days of a new relationship. They are embarking on their first road trip together, full of anticipation and excitement for the new journey. Without giving too much away, the road trip is a metaphor for their relationship and throughout the course of the action, the audience learns where they could be headed. Chelsea Sheldon’s direction blurs the lines between the present and future timelines, making the supernatural parts of the production feel extremely real.
Performed by Phoebe Gunson and Eleanor Willis, the play is creative and raw, with lots of topics and ground being covered in a short period of time. The lack of set changes means that the locations covered are left to imagination, but the dialogue and character performances are enough to tell the story. There are a few instances where props are used and a frog hat in particular has significant power within the narrative. In terms of the future I would like to see more props introduced in this way, helping to visually link the present and future.
Things Unsaid by Raegan Payne
Raegan Payne’s Things Unsaid cleverly illustrates the image of the person on your shoulder that encourages you to say the things you don’t normally have the courage to say. This is achieved through the portrayal of four characters: two as the conscious people in the room (Francesca Isherwood and Joe Cook) and two as the characters inside their minds that don’t hold back (Francesca Woods and Chris Laishley). Set within a restaurant, the diners and their ‘shadows’ are dressed in the same colours, with the central people sitting at the table and their inner thoughts positioned behind them.
The shadows take the lead in the dialogue, encouraging the couple to share their feelings and resolve their relationship blocks in the form of unapologetic and incredibly funny spoken words. It’s extremely relatable, specifically Payne’s writing around the phrase ‘I love you’ and the importance of timing. The pairs of actors naturally fit into the rhythm of the focal performer and shadow. I really enjoyed the humorous concept, with director Ed Hulme giving Woods and Laishley the opportunity to shine in their melodramatic acting. It also works really well as a short play, with the material coming to a satisfying close at the end.
Overall thoughts about the second line-up
With The Dying Speech of a Living Legend as the opening act, the night starts with a punchy piece of new writing which is on its own in terms of theming, in comparison to the relationship-led stories that make up the rest of the line-up. All four plays feature intimate stories about two people though, making the short pieces of theatre work as a set. In terms of the relationship-based plays, Spark, Road Trip and Things Unsaid each take a completely different approach to storytelling, offering unique takes on modern relationships.
The current line-up runs at Barons Court Theatre until Saturday 16th September. I will miss the final week of the festival as a result of other theatre plans next week, but I wish the creative team all the best for it. I’ve seen some innovative pieces of work as part of Reboot, most notably Bound Set in week one and Things Unsaid in week two. Tickets for the final week of the festival are available via the theatre’s website.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*My ticket for Reboot Festival was gifted in exchange for a review.