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.