Lost Theatre’s One Act Festival
Genre: Short Plays
Venue: LOST Theatre Company 208 Wandsworth Road London SW8 2JU
The Bush and Orange Tree theatres are celebrating significant anniversaries this year. Likewise, the Lost Theatre’s twenty-six year history of producing its one-act festival marks its importance as a company that has tirelessly supported the development of new writing and young performing artists. The process that begins in March and leads onto the Winner’s Week in September is quintessential ‘fringe theatre’ in its nurturing of young talent.
The One-Act Festival’s Winner’s Week performances were presented in the following order: Almost 1 Million by Roding Valley High School for Best Direction; The Winning Crowd by Alan Fielden for Best Cast; and Suffer the Little Children by Jamie Chandler for Best Writing. Each play was introduced by a MC and was commented on after its conclusion by festival adjudicator andTimes theatre critic, Mr Jeremy Kingston. Mr Kingston also made the trophy presentation to the winners. An interval came after each act.
The winner for Best Direction in 2011, Almost 1 Million, was a devised drama by Year 10 students of Roding Valley High School in Loughton. Drama teacher & winner of best director Jenny Parsons’ attention to detail was exemplary. Her use of isolated body movement – from twitches to repeated choric gestures – was wonderful to observe throughout the presentation of many fractured episodes whose components were arranged and rearranged to show the implications for the UK’s ‘almost 1 million’ unemployed. Parsons’ young cast did not miss a beat. Despite, their strained voices, they pulled off their presentation with highly disciplined moves, interesting costuming and an inventive use of the space.
The winner for Best Cast category went to The Winning Crowd. The play took as its subject the obsession with remaining happy and how such a condition can lead to absurd and violent situations. Director and playwright Alan Fielden created a surreal world in which, eight extremely happy individuals, with all the emotional depth of cardboard cut-outs, gave ridiculously inappropriate responses to cataclysmic moments in their lives: for instance, terminal illness, unfaithfulness and the sickness and death of children Charlotte Baker, Pandora McCormick, Tyson Douglas, Loukia Pierides, Sara Griffin, Luke Stevenson, Vincent Williams and Brett John perform as an exceptional ensemble and hold the fast moving action with great sense of timing.
The final performance was Suffer the Little Children by Jamie Chandler. Chandler both wrote and performed this winner of Best Writing category. The play is based around the theme of children killing children and the action is from the point of view of one of the offenders. The cleverness of the writing, however, does not reveal that the character on stage is any one other than a young man who is dressing up for an important occasion in his life. The first clues that that he may be in prison cell and heading for a court appearance comes very gradually: for instance, the audience notices that he does not have a belt for his suit trousers. Revelations about his part in murdering a child are given as he chatters casually while readying himself. Its strange innocence is carefully development by the playwright as the audience witness his childish temper and his desperation to remain in relationship with his co-offender, someone who he explains is more like a brother to him.
Despite the good work evident on the night, I felt the Lost Theatre missed an opportunity to receive the kudos it deserves for the One Act Festival. The theatre’s website, for instance, has little more than FAQs and the rules and regulations for prospective entrants for the festival. There are no images of the work the theatre company put in to realise the festival event, particular the hard work of members of the theatre responsible for providing its vision. The audience also seemed exclusively made up of family and friends, a fact which doesn’t quite seem right since the event has been running for twenty-six years.
Now that it’s over for 2011, I recommend that Lost Theatre reconceptualise its advertising and presentation of the One Act by better communicating its creative process and sharing with prospective audiences the difference it has made, and continues to make, to the development of young artists.
Reviewed by Josey De Rossi Friday 9th September 2011