Theatre Review: Script Sessions – Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton

courtyard-theatre

Easter weekend kicked off at the Courtyard Theatre with a packed house to see an evening of original short plays hosted by the Duckdown Theatre company. The Script Sessions gives four up and coming playwrights the chance to take a crack at conceiving a 15 minute play and to win the opportunity to develop an original full-length play, £50 plus a bottle of prosecco. Not bad! Their inspiration for the night was a quote from the Spanish writer George Santayana “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The winner of the evening was Insanity is Repeating by Adam Worsley and Ben Jackson who squeezed into just 15 minutes the past lives of 4 people who reflect on their nights spent in parks, doing drugs, drinking and discovering how it feels when they eventually have to grow up. Only one of them, Adam (Stephen Myott-Meadows) never really does. Worsley and Jackson introduced themselves as poets and their writing is a cross between theatre and poetry. The title phrase “Insanity is Repeating” was usedas a repetition mechanism which the ensemble continued to sound out throughout the piece threading together their stories from when they were kids in hoodies to all buttoned up, tea-drinking adults ready for work. It was a clever way to use the 15 minutes allotted to them and stylistically it was definitely one of the more inventive pieces of the night. Director Julia McShane also complimented the rhythm of the writing with choreographed movements with the ensemble moving in synch which was impressive as we were told they didn’t have that much time to rehearse. Also, Stephen Myott-Meadows is an actor I’ve seen perform before and I find the energy he brings to his characters exciting to watch.

Another special mention would have to be Finders Keepers by Jonathan Skinner. A smart, carefully constructed and genuinely funny mini-comedy. It was about a young couple Liz (Kate Gilbert) and Tom (Andy David) who decide to get away to Dorset to join a voluntary archeological dig. After the dig Liz reveals to Tom at the local pub that she nicked a ring from the dig and when the spooky pale-faced barman played brilliantly by Will Parrott gets word he tells her that back in the 16th century another woman by the name of Elizabeth who also had a husband named Tom as stole a ring but she was brutally executed for it. Liz then gets all caught up in the coincidences of the two stories and her fear starts to take over.

What I loved is how these two parallel stories were told in what the writer calls a “split-screen” scenario. At a certain point, the ghost of Tomas (George Wigzell) from the 16th century appears on stage as the modern day couple are grappling with what their fate will be and the sly barman with the cheeky smirk is clearly entertained by all the drama. The ghost’s presence and interactions with the barman brought an eeriness to proceedings which really helped complete the whole tone of the piece. Each character was well thought-out and the 15 minutes were crafted so tightly that I thought I’d love to see what this guy could do with an hour or so.

Angela Ness’ Recycling was the sad story of Jenna who tracks down at the age of 30 her old boyfriend creepily played by Ady Lloyd who was double her age when they first dated. Her split personality is played out by two different actresses Laura Mulholland and Katherine Rodden who struggle with their feelings for him and eventually decide to end their pain.

A Bullet Through You by Fiona Doyle rounded off the evening with a 3 Act play. Each act was set 30 years apart; 1916 in Edinburgh, 1946 in London and 1976 in Armagh, Northern Ireland. The three acts are strung together with the perpetual theme of war which batters each generation. I thought her piece was quite an ambitious feat as so little time was given to develop each act. It would have been interesting to see how it could be developed into a full-length play.

These kinds of initiatives are what will keep London’s theatre scene buzzing and revitalized. Each one of these playwrights showed a lot of promise and it was actually fun to see what they could deliver in a quarter of an hour. I had some doubts about having the audience decide on who would win but it made the evening more engaging and it seemed like the crowd was much more attentive.

Keep your eye out for the next Script Sessions at their website www.duckdowntheatre.com and if you’re a budding playwright, they’re always looking for new writers! For more information on the lovely Courtyard Theatre check out http://www.thecourtyard.org.uk/.

About Melissa Palleschi

Melissa Palleschi New York actress living in London and trained in Italy, New York and here in London at the Actors Studio. She is also a founding member of the Planktonic Players, who made their London debut at Camden Fringe Festival in 2012.

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