143 (2018)

Image source: Tiny Theatre Company

Theatre N16 left its last home of The Bedford pub at the end of last year, and has now found a new space Styx, an arts space in Tottenham with both outdoor and indoor facilities. My first visit to these premises was for Tiny Theatre Company’s debut production, 143: one writer, four actors, three plays. The company was founded by Alexandra Brailsford and Olivia May Roebuck, aiming to create opportunities for emerging creatives, including giving musical theatre actors a platform to showcase their acting skills.

This particular show brings three of Isabelle Stokes’ short plays to the stage, directed by Katie Turner; each is around 20 minutes long, and with a short break in between each of them the evening runs for approximately 90 minutes.

Image source: Tiny Theatre Company

A modern love story about Daniel and Ava. In spite of her initial assessment (“He’s a dick”), Ava can’t stop thinking about Daniel and they quickly end up in a relationship. Everything moves very fast – she has her doubts, but decides to take a chance and move in with him, doing her best to subtly change his habits, and him out to impress. They live simply but happily, however the pressures of the outside world start to mount (& scratchcards won’t pay their debts), threatening their entire relationship. When they lose everything they’ve got, will they still have each other?

This story is mostly told directly to the audience by one of the two characters, with the occasional section of dialogue between them. Given the topic and the length of the play, this is a clever way to go about it; you hear both sides of the story at around the same time (often amusingly contrasting), and it takes you through at least a year of their life together quite rapidly. Whilst it does work well as a short play, it definitely feels like there’s big potential to expand it into a full-length piece, as it would allow some aspects to be explored in more depth – and maybe give the couple a few more opportunities to talk to each other rather than mostly focusing on us. Danny Merrill portrays Daniel as initially quite carefree and a bit of a charmer, but things start to change as he realises the responsibility they have for each other; Alexandra Brailsford’s Ava is a little more cautious at first, but once she’s committed herself her love is laid bare – as is her vulnerability. Scene transitions are efficient, making good use of music to echo the mood, and the couple making quick work of setting up home together.

Bloody Hands
Maria and Becky are homeless; coming from very different backgrounds, they are flung together when they both take refuge in an empty bank. Maria quickly realises that Becky has no experience of this kind of life, so does her best to teach her the ‘tricks of the trade’ – including the best time & place to steal their supplies from the local shop. But in such an extreme situation, can they truly trust one another?

The heart of this play are the scenes between Becky (Brailsford) and Maria (Olivia May Roebuck), and that’s where its strength lies. It tries to make a broader statement about the context of the events in the play, and the world in which we’re living, via news soundbites and short monologues (Merrill) – however these elements could do with a little more development to make them as hard-hitting as they potentially could be. Alternatively, these could be done away with, and the other scenes expanded, to make it into a two-hander. That being said, it’s performed with feeling, with Roebuck leading the way as the streetwise Maria.

Cold Chips
Ella and Ryan have known each other forever, and every week they sit at the same bench, eating chips and setting the world to rights. Their Friday nights together are just the escape they need from the minefield that is adulthood; Ryan doesn’t seem able to hold down even the crappiest of jobs, and Ella seems to go from one relationship disaster to another. But they can only go on for a certain amount of time pretending everything’s alright, as sooner or later you are forced into taking things more seriously – just as long as you’ve got someone there who knows what you’re going through, and will take the strain when you need it the most.

My favourite of the three plays. A two-hander that highlights the issues facing younger generations (the ‘lack of experience’ feedback from job interviews brought back some not-so-pleasant memories of my own), but is also very warm, human and packed with humour. Though I’m sure it could be worked into something longer, it’s the ideal kind of engaging fare for a short play. Aizaac Sidhu has fantastic comic timing and really makes the most of the great lines Ryan is given – but he’s not just a joker, as he proves himself to be as sturdy a support to Ella as she’s been to him. Roebuck is brilliant as the steady & safe Ella, though she becomes highly paranoid when it comes to relationships; the cracks in her “Jane plan” façade start to show as time goes on, however, with Roebuck cleverly showing a gradual change in her character.

Image source: Tiny Theatre Company

What’s nice about these three plays is that it feels as if they’re all part of the same little world – obviously recognisable as a representation of the world in which we live, but linked by common themes (& phrases) that ties the night together rather neatly. This kind of event is a great way for all kinds of creatives to showcase their talents, whether it’s writers challenging themselves to work in different genres, actors showing they shouldn’t be pigeonholed, or anything else. Above all, it makes for a very entertaining evening for the audience, so I hope that we may see some more of these shows in the future.

143 runs at Theatre N16 until 10 May 2018. Tickets are available online or from the box office.

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