A Friend of A Friend Productions Presents “From Scratch”
Last night I went to a really interesting theatrical evening presented by A Friend of a Friend Productions called ‘From Scratch’ which showcased new writers using 5 short plays in a read-thru format. Now, although I wasn’t there as a reviewer, I’m afraid the bug has got me and I have to put my thoughts and impressions into the written domain. So, here goes:
The Special Ones – Richard Cabut
Two men sit in a car driving I know not where and discuss the people around them. These are not nice men at all, one member of the audience described them as “Daily Mail readers” and although I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, I have to agree. Basically, everyone except them was scum and their reasoning behind this took Nietzsche to a whole new level. True, they were grotesques in their hatred of everyone – even one suspects each other deep down – but, and this was the clever bit, hand on heart, how many of us can say that we have never thought some of their thoughts? I used to drive a lot and have often been very rude about cyclists – though I’ve never actually contemplated hitting one as a warning to the others. Other things they disliked also caused a resonance and an uncomfortable feeling as snippets of their conversation rang true – at this point I’m hoping that I was not alone in this. All in all a well observed and written piece and I, like some other members of the audience would love to see it extended into a longer play.
Tale of Two Cities (When I remember Pablo and Tour Guide) – Anna Forsyth
“Tour Guide” was a monologue which, when it first started, reminded me of a very old John Cleese sketch from The Frost Report about a manic guide on a bus. There was the same air almost of panic with the guide having to deal with these people who she has been trapped with for what was probably a long, long time. She had a familiarity with her charges – played in part by the audience – and maintained eye contact with whichever one of her errant passengers she was dealing with. It was light and fun and I settled down to 10 minutes of laughter. But then the bus had to detour and ended up in Tavistock Square, scene of one of the 7/7 bombings, and thanks to a combination of writing and amazing acting, the atmosphere changed completely. Whilst still maintaining her professional demeanour the tour guide managed to convey the depth of her feelings on so many things about that tragic day. One of the most poignant phrases was around the question, that in a city of 7 million, how could 52 people be missed so much? I really enjoyed this piece though I sort of wanted it to end differently, possibly by arriving at the passengers’ destination and the guide slipping back into tour mode, almost as though nothing had happened.
The second monologue from this writer was “When I Remember Pablo” and has, I confess, left me in a bit of a quandary. At the time, I was transfixed by the one-way conversation which meandered around various subjects, obviously close to the protagonists heart, but looking at things now, I’m really not sure why? If I had met this guy in a bar and he was waffling on in this way, then I would, as they say, have made my excuses and left, even if he was buying drinks. I really didn’t get him. His life was OK – not perfect but who’s is? He had issues with his Dad but they were the kind of issues (My dad treats me more as a friend than a son) many guys wouldn’t mind having, and the whole Pablo/Paulo thing really just confused me. I’m not sure the piece achieved its aim of looking at modern life in New York. All I saw was an really irritating man, drinking too much and whiging but without a good reason for doing either.
Himself to Himself – Steven Lancefield
My second favourite piece of the evening. The writing was so perfect that as soon as the two actors started speaking I knew them. I knew their house, I knew their road, I could even pretty much tell you what they were wearing. These were Surbiton’s finest – Margo and Jerry Leadbetter – brought into the 21st Century. Lynda had most of the lines and used them to great effect, being her friend/neighbour must be exhausting work, but Charles had some corkers and some fantastic expressions and was the perfect foil for his wife. One of my favourite lines was Linda liking the fact a gay man had moved in next door as they needed some diversity and the Patels left years ago (no doubt hounded out by Linda and her ilk). There was another lovely moment when she described the neighbour’s taste in men “he liked them young……..and dead”
Underlying this was the relationship that slowly came to light between Charles and the neighbour. Was Charles going over there so often to work on a car or was he working on something Else? Were he and the neighbour lovers? There was a point where Linda said something along the lines of I knew the minute I met you and Charles jumped (afraid his secret was coming out?) Alternatively, and this is where my mind went, Was Charles involved in the murders, possibly even the murderer? Obviously, we will never know but I got the feeling Linda suspected something and, just maybe, was hoping Charles wasn’t going to suggest laying a new patio anytime soon. A lovely piece of writing combined with a great cast, really left me wanting to know more.
Waterloo Bridge – Carrie Walsh
Of the whole evening, this was, to my mind, the weakest of the pieces. I felt that there was an opportunity missed in the way it was written – and this was one of the occasions when I totally agreed with the professional panel . Two young people (Alan and Ann) – who ostensibly are simply shag buddies but are actually in love with each other – are heading home from a night out with friends when a very drunk medical student literally falls into their lives – thanks to a brilliant move by the Director Patrick Maubert – and gives them the opportunity to say what they feel. At first they make use of this device, with a lovely piece when Ann talks to the girl about a time she got drunk, but they soon move away from using the drunk girl and start talking to the audience instead. This jarred with me and just didn’t feel right. We very quickly got told by Ann that she was in love with Alan but he never really reciprocated, though he did say she was his best friend (maybe it’s a guy thing) or expressed his real l feelings for her. Although somehow they ended up getting the drunk back to her flat/halls, it was a bit of a surprise to everyone as there had not really been anything to suggest hat that they were moving at all. It was the same with the snow. Ann said that there were snow clouds, Alan said that was nonsense then, with no further mention of snow, he held up a snowflake to her and described it. An interesting piece all in all but, I’m afraid, left me feeling as scold as Ann at the bust stop.
Sex and Pyjamas – James Robert-Moore
They do say save the best to last, and by God did AFOAF do that.
This was a wonderful piece with the writer also being one of the actors. Matthew and Simon run into each other pretty much every weekend and end up having sex. No emotions, no consequences, just sex – sounds awesome doesn’t it? Of course all good things come to an end and one person always gets emotionally involved. In this case to the point where he starts carrying a pair of pyjamas in his bag just in case he stays over one night instead of being kicked out afterwards. This has finally happened and we follow the Sunday morning conversation when the other realises he had an overnight guest. Now, I have to be honest and say this piece struck so many chords for me I did wonder if the writer was secretly stalking me. Various parts of their conversation were really familiar – though just in case there is a potential boyfriend out there I do not travel with pyjamas on an evening out. What was strange was that I recognised that I had at times used both sides of the conversation. The dialogue was witty and totally believable and the two actors both seemed perfect for their roles. One of the panel suggested they should have reversed roles so that the ‘top’ was played by the guy that looked more like a ‘bottom’ and vice-versa, personally I didn’t think this play needed to do something as gimmicky as that.
I loved the realisation that chasing Johhno was pretty much a fantasy and maybe one should realise what one has and not let it slip away. There was some talk about the strength of the characters and I have to say the guy with the pyjamas was for me definitely the stronger of the two. He is in love, but instead of declaring this and scaring the other guy off, he bides his time, lets him believe its all about sex, then slowly moves into his head and heart – not in a pyscho “where do you keep your bunny rabbit?” kind of way but in a much more subtle, “I’m going to help you see the truth” way.
A marvellous piece and I would so like to see how the lives of Simon and Matthew progress. Personally I think another couple of years, or possibly sooner, there will be less talk of taking someone up the Shard and more about walking down the aisle, and I’ll be there in my new hat throwing the confetti.
Five highly talented actors, Kate Hume, Philip Honeywell, James Robert-Moore, Ashley Beckett and Verity Quade played all the parts in all the plays, and did so spectacularly. The direction by Patrick Maubert was spot on and the organisation by the lovely Susanna Narvaez cannot be faulted. I am already looking forward to the next AFOAF production on the 29th September.