Following on from their success in June, Falling Pennies last Sunday held another of their On The Night showcase events at the Arcola Theatre.
Since ‘Second Chances‘ I’ve been lucky enough to see two full-length Falling Pennies productions, both written by the fantastic James Hartnell: Beetles From The West and Remedial Remedies. They have provided me with some of my favourite bits of theatre this year, and ‘Time & Place’ was no exception.
Nathan Builds a Time Machine (written by Tom Hartwell, directed by Rebecca Lyon)
Some comedy to get things started. Nathan (Sacha Mandel) has built a time machine, of sorts, to try & fix his near-failed relationship with Jessica (Emmy Rose). Having pinpointed moments in the past where he has made mistakes, he travels back to try & correct them; as you might expect, it doesn’t all go according to plan… It has great impact as a short piece, but you can definitely see the potential to expand on it a bit – perhaps revisiting the past moments in greater detail, though being careful not to have too many time jumps as there is the risk of it being repetitive. It’s also something that I think would work well on film, should Hartwell wish to pursue the material further in a different medium.
Kate’s Expectations (written by Louise Coulthard, directed by Jackie Fisher)
Also looking at the concept of time – but more specifically, first times. It opens on Kate (Tania Van Amse) & Andrew (Reice Weathers) in conversation, taking a little while to reveal for definite what it is they’re talking about. There are some good one-liners, but the best thing about it is Coulthard’s way of teasing out information & bringing up themes quite subtly. This piece has the feel of a ‘work-in-progress’, but it definitely has potential & is something that could be developed.
Doomed Resistance (written by Simon Godfrey, directed by Georgie Staight)
A brilliant standalone short play. A Belgian commander (Ryan Penny) appears to be the last line of defence against Ludendorff (Charlie Field) – the commander does his best to prevent the seemingly inevitable, displaying considerable delaying tactics, when something unexpected happens… What Doomed Resistance does so well is show off Godfrey’s capability to devise a farcical plot, full of silly jokes, and the brilliance of comic actors cast. Having seen Penny & Field in productions this year (Beetles From The West and Winter of Our Discotheque) I knew the script was in terrific hands.
Fishing Tricks (written & directed by James Hartnell)
I’ve quickly come to expect hilarity to ensue when I see James Hartnell’s name on the writing credits. Fishing Tricks is set in the staff room of a well-known supermarket chain, where the conversation has turned to their love lives: from talking tactics (Wetherspoons curry club is the preferred option) to using the Bake Off as an analogy for an ideal woman, or simply teasing Harry (Cory Stuckey). The cast seemed to have hit it off quickly, providing an extra spark of energy in their performance – they are all excellent, but Joseph Cox (previously seen in Remedial Remedies) really stands out. There are some brilliantly funny lines, and you could definitely see this as part of a bigger whole. So if Hartnell’s interested in working on a comedy set in a supermarket…
Greedy (written by Sally McIlhone, directed by Georgia Harris)
Considering the plays are only around 15 minutes long, McIlhone’s piece does well to make you think you’re watching one thing when actually the scenario is quite different! Alex (Paula Masterton) & Paul (Darryl Oakley) are on a date – initially it appears to be speed-dating, or perhaps a blind date, but after several glasses of wine the truth comes out. They’re in a long-term relationship but are in need of ways to spice things up a bit; as it progresses it looks like they’re about to break up, but an hilarious ending is provided when Paul decides to propose! This is a good, brief exploration of modern relationships which could definitely be extended to look at them in more depth – whilst remaining entertaining.
Leaving (written by Rob Green, directed by Jess Barton)
An absolutely heartbreaking piece. A mother (Eliza McClelland) is being moved out of her home by her daughter (Sophie Spreadbury), and they’re taking one last look around before they leave. The mother appears to have Alzheimer’s so is quite unaware of what’s going on, to her daughter’s frustration & sadness – though a Ludo box brings an old memory to the mother’s mind, and the pair seem fairly content by the time they leave. Two very touching performances bring this sensitive & relevant subject to life, to create an extremely moving piece of theatre. I’d suggest it’s something that should be put in front of as many audiences as possible, and maybe even filmed to spread it further & keep raising awareness.
Not: Lady Chatterley’s Lover (written by Lawrence Russell, directed by Matthew Bosley)
One of my favourite pieces of the night. A comic parody of the famous D.H. Lawrence novel, in which Clifford (Lawrence Russell) has returned from the war in a “wheely seat” and with a brand new set of legs that have been transplanted on after he lost his. The blanket is removed from his lap to reveal stockings & high heels, naturally! His wife, Constance (Leonie Spilsbury), has little awareness of what has been going on in the war and, despite Clifford’s return, is subjected to advances from Mellors (Lyle Barke). It is full of double entendre, snappy one-liners & a considerable amount of tongue-in-cheek humour – even a couple of prop malfunctions couldn’t spoil it, including Barke ending up with a new shawl to keep himself warm. Superb comic performances all round, and something I definitely want to see more of!
(Judging by Twitter there are already solid plans for expanding on this piece! Happy Idiot has launched a crowdfunding campaign to get things off the ground.)
Penumbra (written by Jonathan Skinner, directed by Shelley Knowles)
Incorporating both themes of the night, George (Edward Firth) finds himself in the right place at the right time when he encounters amateur astronomer Daphne (Rea White). She is in Yorkshire to witness an eclipse, and he is attempting to deliver a parcel – though decides to delay it for a while so he can get to know Daphne, as well as see the eclipse for himself. Their encounter inspires him to seek more new experiences, promising to meet her for the next eclipse. A sweet story that finished off the evening rather neatly; it would be interesting to see if George did make it in time to meet Daphne again, and I think that could work as an extension of this short play.
Yet another fantastic night, with lots more great new writing off the back of it. I hope there will be further On The Night events in the future; they have a really convivial atmosphere and it’s definitely the perfect stage to try out new pieces.
I look forward to see what 2017 brings for Falling Pennies – more of the same please!