Tag Archives: Josh Morter

“Bare E-ssentials 4: A New Hope” from Encompass Productions

I have to admit I couldn’t make the live streaming of this new writing night. And I really did miss it! Thankfully, the show is available online and the atmosphere created by its host and “custodian of the scripts”, director Liam Fleming, can still be enjoyed. The evening has become quite a habit during Lockdown and the strong writing – comedy and drama – continues to live up to high expectations.
Cold Call by Scott Younger is a fun piece, centred on a bored data management employee flirting over the phone. The solid script is elevated by Fleming’s direction and the performance of Duncan Mason (pictured top). Younger has good sense of momentum and provides a nice twist.

A different kind of call centre is the setting for Donna Hoke’s take on the idea of ‘paying it forward’.  There are three performers (Encompass Productions are spoiling us), all impressive: Josh Morter, Simon Pothecary and Holli Dilon. A nice sense of the ridiculous makes this one enjoyable, and the idea of how charity, anonymity and social media mix could easily be developed.

Less successful, but with strong ideas, is Katie Murphy’s Just A Game. Two online gamers, with a strong back story, reveal secrets and lies. The piece has a lot of potential, so it’s a shame the script and performances are a little stilted.

The evening has a stirring finale with a powerful monologue by Alan Hall, about homelessness. Impeccably performed by Megan Pemberton, with Fleming’s direction sure-footed again, this is a particularly impressive piece – and, remarkably, the writer’s first monologue.
If there is a reservation, it’s clear that using phone or video calls as a device, while suited to an online show, is becoming the new normal. It makes sense – I get it – but is it wearing thin already? Yet fear not! While another online event is planned for the 30th of September, the company hopes to be back in a real theatre – The Old Bear in Kennington – in November. I’ll be buying a ticket as soon as I can.


“Bare E-ssentials” from Encompass Productions

This live stream, hosted by affable creative producer Liam Fleming, was a new writing night scheduled for 13 May. Such occasions are an essential part of London’s fringe and it is important that they carry on despite Covid-19. That everything didn’t go to plan is no reflection on the talent or commitment… it’s just the nature of live performance.

Things got off to a good start with Teresa Espejo’s The Big 30! about a young woman preparing for a birthday night out. What the piece lacked in originality, it compensated for with a natural tone, making its recognisable character’s concerns about the future and romance moving, and leading to a strong performance by Sian Eleanor Green. Staged presumably in Green’s own living room, director Jonathan Woodhouse clearly worked out that the piece suited an online performance and it was easy to enjoy this one outside the theatre.

Another live performance of a 2017 piece by Lucy Kaufman also suited the online format. A set of telephone conversations, from a commissioner of plays, Radio Foreplay is a clever comedy sketch that Alexander Pankhurst performed well in. It’s full of good jokes and all-out innuendo and is keen to show its intelligence.

Two further, recorded, pieces fell foul of YouTube as they contained pre-recorded music. Thankfully, they have both been made available online. John Foster’s 2015 Little Boy makes a powerful monologue for James Unsworth (pictured). It is the story of Claude, one of the pilots involved in the bombing of Hiroshima who later became a pacifist. Focusing on his PTSD is probably a wise move given the brevity of the piece, but the theme lacks originality (likewise a lot of the dialogue) and the twist of Claude’s “atonement” takes too long to arrive.

Another piece connected to war was Vintage, again by Lucy Kaufman. The scenario is the marriage counselling of an unusual couple, David and Emma, who are trying to live – Home, I’m Darling style – as if the year were 1943. Directed by Rachael Owens are Josh Morter and Holli Dillon, who both sound great, enjoy the comedy and (mostly) work well with the camera. If Kaufman doesn’t seem clear how to end the piece, she has plenty of good lines. And in a culture like ours that often seems unhealthy obsessed with “British resilience” during the war, there’s a nice idea to explore here.

Nobody should expect perfection from nights like these. Professionalism, of course, but more experimentation and enthusiasm. Encompass Productions has all three qualities and, while technical hitches are a disappointment, I trust all involved are determined to make these shows go on and I look forward to more.