After a few weeks where my theatre consisted of Shakespeare, Ibsen, a revival of an eighties play and a Chekhov that didn’t look like Chekhov, it was great pleasure to go back to new writing. With a packed schedule and within twenty four hours, I saw four plays from four young playwrights (you are getting old when the playwrights start looking younger): first it was This House by James Graham at the National Theatre, and the next day, the Roundabout season, three plays in a single afternoon, produced by Paines Plough and Sheffield Theatres and performed at the Shoreditch Town Hall.
Three playwrights, all under 35, three different visions all performed in the same intimate, almost inescapable, space:
One Day When We Were Young by Nick Payne: My favourite piece of the day, especially the second act, tenderly performed by Andrew Sheridan and Maya Alexander. Nick Payne is currently riding an immense high, with Constellations at the Royal Court being a huge success (and transferring to the West End) and his play “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet” playing in New York. “One Day When We Were Young” is a story of an unlikely and brief love affair that marks two people in different ways for the next sixty years. Payne’s writing probes difficult places of loneliness and heartbreak, and the actors, especially Andrew Sheridan (who has the rare ability of drawing you in so effectively and with so little fanfare that takes you by surprise) make the play justice.
Lungs by Duncan Macmillan: in some ways the most accomplished play of the day, superb dialogue and a frighteningly astute insight in modern love. Directed by Richard Wilson with dazzling energy, performed by Kate O’Flynn and Alistair Cope with effortless emotional precision, it focuses on a young middle class couple as they contemplate the choices in their lives. I liked its energy and its sharp turns but it had some of the self indulgence of its subject matter.
The Sound of the Heavy Rain by Penelope Skinner: the final play of the evening was also the oddest. A private detective has visitors, visions and a new case to solve. Echoes of the Singing Detective, the play never finds its place: mostly played for laughs, at some point it abruptly changes to something deeper and more profound, only for that to be abandoned almost immediately. The ideas are interesting and bold but the play is unfinished. All four actors from the other two plays come together for this, and they definitely have fun with it, with Alistair Cope revealing hidden depths.
A final word for the venue, the very beautiful Shoreditch Town Hall: I have never been to the building before, and the main chamber is as grand as you would expect. Within that space, a temporary wooden in-the-round structure is built hosting actors and audience. The humble feel of the wood within the grand surroundings made for an interesting contrast, adding to the excitement of the day.
Revstan makes her own assessment and we might not agree in everything.
P.S. Nick Payne, Duncan Macmillan and Penelope Skinner were interviewed for the Metro a few days ago, all looking impossibly fresh faced.