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81 Renshaw Street Boss New Plays 5

81 Renshaw Street was buzzing on the evening of Wednesday 24th July as the air filled with anticipation for the start of Boss New Plays 5. This three-evening spectacle from Wednesday 24th – Friday 26th July provides a platform for up and coming Writers, Actors, Directors, and Technicians, showcasing the best of Liverpool’s emerging creative talent.

Wednesday 24th July

Coming Home written by Steph Niciu

Directed by Amber Buttery

Cast

Audrey: Hannah Kidman

Colin: Joe Matthew Morris

James: Pete O’Keeffe

Coming Home written by Steph Niciu, explored the complications of a student coming home from University with some news that may trouble his parents.  The play socially comments on a parent’s anguish and struggle to let go of their first born and equally a son’s anxiety of letting his family down. The opening of the production was fast paced and cut sharply between Audrey (Hannah Kidman) and Colin (Joe Mathew Morris) and their son, James (Pete O’Keefe). The moments of sharp interjection from stage left to right set the scene for the arrival of James. James broke the fourth wall almost instantly with some comical exchanges with Henry the Hoover. However, this also displayed a rather lonely reality of University life. Throughout this piece there were some real flashes of family awkwardness that delightfully allowed for some witty moments. The actors had good chemistry on stage and the play opened the evening with light-hearted fun. It would be interesting to see how this piece could be developed further, as it felt as if a more in-depth exploration of the characters was needed.

3 Stars

Keys In- written by Paul Daley

Directed by Ben Rivers

Cast

Dawn: Emma Hirons

Michael: James Seamus Bray

Gaston: Graeme Flynn

How do you spice things up in a marriage in the 1970s? Paul Daley showed us with his production of Keys In that marriages are filled with miscommunications. Michael – played by James Seamus Bray -tries to add a bit of excitement into his marriage to Dawn – played by Emma Hirons. Although, Dawn did not expect what her husband had planned. With smart direction by Ben Rivers the audience were transported to a seedy club as this fast-paced comedy delightfully tackled a once taboo subject. This was further backed up by the arrival of a French Casanova named Gaston, played by Graeme Flynn. A couple in a battle of stubbornness and Gaston’s farce like sleaziness allowed for an interesting shift of power dynamics. It would be nice to see where this piece could go next and see how this couple’s relationship would cope in different situations. Furthermore, the exits and entrances in this piece needs more work, as the transitions could have been smoother. However, it really was laugh out loud funny and I fully enjoyed the playful exchanges between characters.

3.5 Stars

Gold Star- Written by Ginni Manning

Directed by Margaret Connell

Cast

Carla: Rachael Kearney

James: Sam Donovan

Female Police Officer: Louise Garcia

Male Police Officer: Liam Powell-Berry

Lacey: Laura Connolly

Hazel: Lisa McMahon

Based on a true story, Gold Star joins a couple on their wedding day, the same day as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge… seems like the perfect start for any newlywed couple. However, all was not as it appeared as the bride (played by Rachel Kearney) begins to deliver her speech. Suddenly, after a few lines the lighting changed, and a sound effect shifted the focus of the play towards two police officers. This initial gut-wrenching moment was a sign of things to come as the play explored the juxtapositions of the best and worst days of a woman’s life. Exposing the realisation that not everyone can be taken at face value, even the ones we love. It was fantastically acted by all the cast, albeit the pure evilness of James played by Sam Donovan, and his confident range of performances could steal any show. The audience fell silent with this well-structured and observant writing. I would most definitely like to see this made into a full-length production; however, I would also like to see how dropping the sound effects could allow for a more sincere transition.

4.5 Stars

Wolf – written by Joe Lewis

Directed by Margaret Connell

Cast

Terry: Nick Sheedy

Wolf: Tim Lucas

This play was the harrowing story of two men both on different sides of World War II, following the famous truce and football game that happened on Christmas Day, 1914.  Terry, played by Nick Sheedy, is a teenage soldier from Liverpool who has been sent off in the first half.  He is joined by Wolf, a 33-year-old German man that has been injured. Using comedic techniques and moments of intimacy, the play explores the difficulties that faced soldiers who no longer knew the reason why they were fighting. The play displayed how a generation of lives lay in the hands of power-crazy politicians and the difficulties of masculinity. This piece was truly written well and both actors committed completely to this unlikely relationship, displaying fantastic chemistry that demonstrated the vulnerability and compassion of this experience. Furthermore, the simplistic staging decisions made by the Director allowed for an audience member to feel privileged to witness this intimate moment. It left the audience wanting more, although it most definitely worked to its time frame.

4.5 Stars

Thursday 25th July

The Lists

Written by Darren Anglesea

Directed by Zara Marie Brown

Cast

Mary: Deborah Elizabeth

Deb: Shannon Power

Rachel: Claire Crossland

The Lists written by Darren Anglesea is a hard-hitting drama following the story of two women who had the same diagnosis but with a different prognosis. Before it became clear what this piece would entail, the staging was particularly striking. Standing stage left was the end of treatment bell, this created a knot in an audience members stomach, even before the dialogue started. This knot was tightened as Anglesea’s writing didn’t hold back on the reality of terminal cancer. Firstly, we meet Mary, played by Deborah Elisabeth, as she delivers a harrowing monologue that centred around her list as the beeping of her heart monitor sent the audience into a trance like state. This was contrasted with an uplifting interaction between Mary’s Nurse Deb, played by Shannon Power, who anchored this piece – displaying the strength and support her job required. The piece paradoxically shifted as we met Rachel played by Claire Crossland, whose character was getting ready to ring the bell, with a list aimed to empower the rest of her days. The actors in this piece challenged a tough subject and gave some fantastic performances, this was evident as audience members cried, laughed and gasped with the actors. Anglesea captured something raw and true in his writing, and this piece has the potential to be developed further. However, in the final scene the phone call didn’t seem necessary to the performance, as it tipped the emotional scale of the piece.

4 Stars

Evidence written by Mari Lloyd

Directed by Sarah Jayne Van Parys.

Cast

Doctor 1/Scientist: Michael Schenck

Woman 1/ Peasant: Caitlin Clough

Alice Stewart/ Woman 2: Catherine Devine

Richard Doll/ Doctor2: Christopher Rae

This piece was a fast-paced whirlwind of dramatic and comedic styles. With expert storytelling, this play was an exploration into the difficulties surrounding the scientific and medical communities of the 1960s and its dismissal of female medical professionals. Displaying how language can be a manipulative tool and how opposing evidence can shape people’s lives. The cast was in complete unison as they eased into different roles in this polished performance.  However, I must pay accolade to Parys’ direction of this piece. Exhibiting how this stage can be used most effectively, with smooth transitions, use of levels and acoustic sound effects it gave the audience a visual feast. I will be interested in the development of this piece and would like to see it travel through more eras and possibly expose even more scientific blunders.

4.5 Stars

Men Who Wear Dresses.

Written and Directed by Irene Stuart

Cast

Jeff: Robbie James Williamson

Mal: Dave Harris

Bernie: Danielle Britton

This piece glimpses into a conversation between two men and their fruitful past. Jeff, played by Robbie James Williamson, and Mal, played by Dave Harris, are old friends who meet regularly in their local. With interjection from the barmaid Bernie played by Danielle Briton, this piece tackled a topical argument that is relevant in today’s climate. This was most evident as the men bickered over their different views of masculinity and femininity. Showing a shift in attitudes towards sexism and relationships over a generational gap. However, I would have liked for the pace of this piece to be consistent as it lacked energy at times. In-order for further development it would be beneficial to build on the chemistry between characters.

2.5 stars

Friday 26th July

Playtime

Written by Oliver Back

Directed by Emma Turner

Cast

Tango: Izzy Balchin

Tiffin: Damien Hughes

Val: Geraldine Moloney Judge

Comet: Nick Sheedy

Somersby: Faye Caddick

Melton: Lee Burnitt

When walking to my seat on Friday evening there was a different energy in the theatre. The audience were greeted by eerie music, a darkened stage covered in sweet wrappers and an old television set placed down stage right. Setting the scene for this abstract excursion into the bizarre and dreamlike writing of Back. Enter Tango, played by Izzy Bachin, and Tifton played by Damien Lewis, in torn Camo and eager eyes as they stumbled into this unfamiliar space.  Malnourished and starving, the pair began to divulge the contents of the stage as the dialogue dived into the absurdity of their basic human needs. Food, shelter and sex were scarce subjects explored in this surreal storytelling. This was further met with physicality and excellent use of levels which achieved a complex and meaningful visual. The opening was capped with a haunting monologue delivered by Bachin that displayed the actor’s wide range of characterisation in her role. This further shifted the text from an apocalyptic nightmare to a Homer-esque longing for a time gone by.

This was a sign of things to come as the audience was introduced to Comet, played by Nick Sheedy and Val, played by Geraldine Moloney Judge. Comet, a nervous but anchored character confronted the pair of trespassers and warned them of Val and her powers. However, the pair where unfazed with such threats and with the suggestion of a party they were eager to stay. Val entered in spectacular fashion, whilst donning a Spice Girl inspired dress. Val continued to change the power dynamics of the piece as she insisted on the other characters to engage in her nostalgic games, whilst insisting it was her birthday… only when prompted on her age did the audience understand that this play was a sad reality of a character that was stuck in the past. Furthermore, it paved the way for this piece to socially comment on how being trapped in such a reality can be a concoction of confusion, anxiety and platonic dilemma. Finally, the audience were introduced to Somersby played by Faye Caddick and Melton by Lee Burnitt as the bizarre birthday party was complete. The play had twists and turns until the very end, as this smart piece of new writing and formidable directing overindulged the audience with compelling drama, and moments of real comedy. To improve this piece, moments of stillness could be found in the text and in the final scene the lighting of the birthday cake could be reworked, as this detracted from an intimate moment.

4.5 stars