Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A little less conversation, a little more action

Verbally Challenged at the Contact Theatre sees five new writers have their ten-minute plays performed in front of an audience, who then offer feedback. The theme for this evening was Panto, with the writers invited to subvert the genre of pantomime for a modern audience.

O Yes It Flippin’ Is by Yvonne Sewell

About a boy with an imaginary friend, and a girl who wants one. The premise captured the spirit of a magical, child-like realm, whilst avoiding panto cliché and was really funny at the same time. The pay-off was kind of corny, but saw a random audience member flexin’ and poppin’ on the stage. I thought it really worked.

Back to Mine by Will Roberts

An after-the-pub story about a group of friends, one of whom says Christmas is rubbish at the start of the play, and then says that, actually, it isn’t really rubbish at the end. Not much happened. Quite a lot was said. The highlight was a knob gag, which kind of sums it all up.

BNP British National Panto by Matthew Rothwell

In a dystopian future, where Nick Griffin is Prime Minister and single men are forced to dress in drag, Joe(-sephine)’s daughter falls for a prince, who happens to be, er, Prince. The politics got a bit preachy at times, but the audience got to greet Buttons with, “FUCK OFF BUTTONS!” Prince was revealed to be a woman, and Griffin got punched in the face.

Jebediah Piles by James Britton

I don’t watch The Jeremy Kyle Show, so I wasn’t sure if this was an homage or a parody. Its main point was the rather blunt comparison between pantomime parts and the polarised characterisation of the guests / victims on chat shows. Again, lots of talking, not much action.

The Golden Ring by Kelly J Roberts

I didn’t enjoy this play. It was muddled, dated and too wordy. The narrator’s jokes didn’t get many laughs. The storyline was incoherent, and didn’t even make sense – deposing the speaker doesn’t destabilise the Commons. It was dated in two ways: Gollum is SO five years ago; and the expenses scandal was chip paper back in the summer. And its politics were all to cock too – I’m not going to boo Gordon Brown.

Offering constructive criticism isn’t easy at the best of times. It’s especially not easy right after the lights come up, when the play is sinking into your mind. I didn’t have much to say until the end. I rambled rather, but around the idea that a little less conversation and a little more action would have improved most of the plays. If we’d seen the change in the character in Back to Mine, rather than have him tell us about it, the story would have been much more powerful. Otherwise it’s just live radio. Action IS character. What do the characters want? I think Kurt Vonnegut put it best when he said,

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

And again, I felt the tickles of my creative past.

No comments: