Tiny Theatre Company announced the arrival of 143 (one writer, four actors, three plays) back in May last year, a night of new writing that led to a full production of one piece a few months later: Cold Chips. Alexandra Brailsford and Olivia May Roebuck are now back with 143: Volume 2, this time featuring three short plays from Amy Guyler (Digging Deep, VAULT Festival 2019). Charlie Maguire and Peter Hardingham join Brailsford and Roebuck as the cast of four; each actor appears in one of the two two-hander plays, and they all join forces for the final piece.
“2 years together and a baby on the way. The best thing to do is to get married, right?”
Usually your wedding is seen as the best day of your life – or at least somewhere in the top three – but the reception has barely begun and already Matt and Julia aren’t exactly feeling the love. It has cost an arm and a leg (from Julia’s dress to a “bespoke bakery experience” that also catered to Matt’s nut allergy), and the pair don’t seem to have a huge amount in common: they come from very different backgrounds and neither side’s friends & family really seem to have warmed to the other. A few million quid certainly helps though…
This one is short but sweet (in a manner of speaking), and a fun way to kick off the evening. The sweary exchanges are great, and it’s a simple way of showing the animosity that’s been brewing between the couple – though it’s occasionally quite playful, hinting at a closeness beneath the carnage. Peter Hardingham and Olivia May Roebuck perform this well, spitting insults at each other like venomous snakes whilst subtly exchanging glances that suggest something more. I could definitely see an extended version of this that could really dig deeper into their relationship, giving them more time to consider what went wrong (and what went right), as well as allowing them to cool off between their fights – even if only to come up with a few more bespoke swearing experiences!
“With Maddie’s birthday coming up, of course Jake wants to make her feel as special as she deserves…”
An innocent conversation begins between Maddie and Jake; she bashfully checks that he really has missed her, “you’re my favourite person” is his response. It’s not all perfect, though, as Maddie confronts Jake about some rumours going round about him and another girl – but he persuades her that there’s nothing to it, so all is right in the world again and talk turns to Maddie’s impending birthday. Maybe a trip to the seaside is just what they need, but is it too sudden?
This is really cleverly done. The simple staging gives nothing away, leaving the script to slowly and steadily reveal the true nature of this interaction – there are flickers of the truth throughout, though it’s only about halfway through that this gains momentum and the mood changes. It could possibly be extended slightly, to maybe show some of their early exchanges or Jake talking to other girls, but it works so brilliantly as a short piece. The perfect pacing in the script is matched by subtly changing performances from Alexandra Brailsford and Charlie Maguire, only giving information away when the text is good and ready.
“A university reunion was always going to get a bit messy, but did they plan to get their hands so dirty?”
Harry and Carys try to keep in touch with one another, but haven’t seen Abbie for years; they were quite close at uni, but (as is often the case) the group has drifted apart. Although, judging by the way they remember their graduation party, it sounds like it might not have been such a passive course of events after all… Out of the blue, Abbie invites her old uni friends to Leeds Festival and they reluctantly stick to the plan – but when Jack’s name gets mentioned, it’s clear that everyone’s in for a bumpy ride.
A slightly more in-depth play to end the evening, the four characters allowing the central narrative to develop, as well as having a chance to bring their own stories to the table. Because of this extra room to breathe it does work well as a standalone piece, but there’s definitely potential for development; it’s very funny, but at the same time there’s a dark secret at its heart that holds it all together – there’s just the right balance of intrigue and entertainment, and you definitely want to get to know these characters a bit more. The full company work brilliantly well together for this last piece, with Maguire and Brailsford standing out as the germophobe doctor and snarky health blogger, respectively.
This is another really well organised new writing event, and definite justification for 143 to be a regular presence on London’s Fringe. These three short plays from Amy Guyler cover a range of themes and take different approaches, but they have in common a set of compelling characters, interesting plots and unexpected twists; there is plenty of potential for a future life for any of these pieces, whether as full productions or slightly extended & developed for another new writing night. Terrific performances from the cast make 143: Volume 2 a hugely enjoyable watch, putting their all into these intriguing stories.
143: Volume 2 runs at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 13 October 2019. Tickets are available online.