REVIEW: ‘Cheap night and challenging theatre’

This new company, A Friend of a Friend (FOAF), has been established to provide writers, not specifically new ones or young ones, with an opportunity to have their works performed in this beautiful theatre just off the main West End beat.

As “First Draft” is the first attempt to piece together a show and fill this 275 seat venue the eclectic range of subjects on offer here deserves to be applauded. Instead of just plundering the recent graduates of writing courses they have managed to find some real and proven talent here.

Of the six pieces here the ones that left the greatest impression on both me and my friends were Robin Johnson’s Wildhouse with a beautifully paired cast of Dominic Rye and Canavan Connolly, in this gentle and delightful satire of an Edwardian comedy, Still I See My Baby by the prolific and obviously skilled wordsmith DB Horrigan and the opening to the entire show, Vigilante by John Foster.

We did turn to each other and think that maybe the entire evening would be as challenging as Vigilante was and it did seem odd to us that both of the really dramatic pieces were back to back at the start of the show when the audience might have appreciated a little gentle laughter to let them settle in before hitting them where it hurts with this brilliantly observed and emotionally challenging piece about justice, humanity and nobility and how it can be found in the most unlikely of places.

There are no program notes for Foster but with a bit of digging it is easy to see why Vigilante, which could be just two people screaming at each other but is far far more than that, is so engaging. He has a long and illustrious writing career that started with Z Cars in 1962. He most certainly knows his way around the power plays between opposites.

His writing is obviously aided by the fact that he and the director, Sam Snape, managed to find a cast strong enough to play these roles brilliantly. The cast of Colin Jonathan Appleby as Richard Maidment, and Matthew Jure as Adam Shaw, were the dramatic highlight of the show.

For me Appleby had the slight edge and I would describe his performance as nothing short of breath taking but that is to take nothing away from the performance of Jure which, if he had been paired with an actor who was good and not great he would have stolen the show.

The evening was rounded off by a performance from The Fun Bags a female comedy group who have obviously spent time honing their skills and creating a laugh out loud collection of creations for our entertainment.

We would happily see Fun Bags again. And we hope that Still I See My Baby and Vigilante are expanded into full length plays and we get to see them too. They all deserve to be seen and audiences deserve to see them.”

By Jon Appleton

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