Review: Theatre Uncut 2014 at the Soho theatre (and then Brighton, Bristol, Liverpool)

Ruairi Conaghan and Conor MacNeill in Ira Provitt and The Man. Photo  Jeremy Abrahams

Ruairi Conaghan and Conor MacNeill in Ira Provitt and The Man. Photo Jeremy Abrahams

There is a danger in talking about Theatre Uncut. Set in 2010 as a response to the public spending cuts announced by the coalition government, it challenges playwrights to write fast, raw and immediate about the world around them. 2010 is a lifetime ago, and back then we might have felt we would ride any difficulties the way we always did, persevering with our daily lives, semi-committed, occasionally thinking about the political but more often not. Four years later, things only got bleaker and more urgent, so hats off to Hannah Price and Emma Callander (co-artistic directors) because they knew back then what we all know now: thinking about political solutions is not something we can leave for later or to others.

But here is the danger: Theatre Uncut isn’t just worthy and important. It is theatre (the clue is in the title) and works perfectly fine as a theatrical event. The five plays performed are rough, fast, full of questions and storytelling ideas.

The Finger of God by Anders Lustgarten is a rather pessimistic look on how the corroding grind of daily uncertainty leaves us vulnerable to cruelty. PACHAMAMA by Clara Brennan is an ambitious attempt to draw bold lines between the personal and the universally political. Reset Everything by Inua Ellams is a bleakly funny story of loneliness crushed by the spare bedroom tax. The Most Horrific by Vivienne Franzmann is an eloquent dance move between media and the horrific traumas of worldwide conflict. Ira Provitt and The Man by Hayley Squires tackles youthful ideals, middle-age fears, the people we were and the people we become. I suspect someone else would have described the plays quite differently, as each one is a tap on the shoulder, leading you down on a different line of personal thought.

The four actors move from story to story with unnerving ease: Ruth Gibson projects a hard-edged air in most of her characters; Faith Alabi is traumatised yet clear-eyed in The Most Horrific; and in the last play, Ira Provitt and The Man, Ruairi Conaghan is a brittle conflicted man and Conor MacNeill a forceful inescapable presence. Designer Carla Goodman has done a beautiful job with the set, that morphs into different worlds with only the slightest of adjustments.

After Edinburgh, Glasgow and the London performances at the Soho theatre, the plays will tour Brighton, Bristol, Canterbury and Liverpool. You can find out more – including other ways to be involved – at the Theatre Uncut website.

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