8 Dec

A million plays in one evening! Sounds like a gag, doesn’t it?
It turns out to be fascinating once you get used to the speed, the quick changes and the commanding voice over, telling the actors where to go next.
Just two actors play out small scenes inspired by overheard conversations.
The first is a amusing start to the evening. a couple of theatre ushers disicussing the contents of their customers’ overcoat pockets. Usually half-used packets of mints which they enjoy and share between them discussing the flavour values of each kind . Mint imperials seem to be the favourites. They judge the distinguished visitors according to their taste in mints, apart from Amdrew Lloyd Webber, who apparently had in his pocket a half eaten hobnob “and him a Lord, too!”
I am afraid this was a spoiler for the first few minutes of the show, but there is so much more to come, the actors play many roles, a curious variety of parts; men, women, young and old, children, boys and girls with little reference to gender on the part of the actors. There are wigs in profusion , worn by both Emma Barclay (female) and Alec Nicholls male) actors. I found Emma’s old ladies and the separate ages of the children so beautifully observed. Alec Nicholls is hilarious as the long haired brunette in a trench coat chatting to her Mum on the tube.
Each conversation lasts a short time and is interrupted by the voice coming over the sound system telling them where to go next. It could be ‘A resturant in Stoke Poges’ they immediately tear off the top layer of clothes they are wearing, set a small table and are suddenly a couple having dinner.
They are quite plump as the ushers at the beginning of Act one but they shed their garments for each scene until the end, they are left with tee shirts – when they become cleaners with huge laundry bags getting rid of the discarded garments, tidying up the stage before the interval.
It is not only a feat for the actors changing their characters at a voice message, it is also a feat for the costumer designer Ceci Calf, who also designed the curious setting. It is like a stage upon a stage with a Bingo card dominating the back wall. It seems to have no relevance in the proceedings until the beginning of Act two.
It is seldom we see actors at their most versatile. But also unusual is the Canadian writer who picks up nuances of phrases from Brits wherever he goes. obviously they are not all overheard – excpet in his imagination, but they are inspired by his love of colloquial language and are amusing, touching or sometimes heart rending. But all are interesting.
This is one of the most unusual plays ever, produced originally at the Watmill in 2016 and brought to Jermyn Street by the Artistic Director Tom Littler. A brave move, but, I think, worth it.

aline at AWtheatricals

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