Six of the best — local playwrights excel!
In his introductory speech BMDS president Than Butterfield asked where else in the world would you get to see six world premieres in one evening? Indeed. For this is the 14th playwriting contest held by the society which has raised more than $300,000 for charity since 2002. Daylesford theatre was packed with an enthusiastic audience which included many of the authors and directors.
In Suzanne Notman's The Underlying Truth directed by Sheilagh Robertson, harassed young lawyer Rupert (Connor Tumbridge) has to decide whether to risk putting a child on the witness stand, against his senior colleague's better judgment (Geoffrey, played by Anant Borole). To complicate matters Rupert's overprotective and interfering mother (Camilla, played by Alba Fernandez) and her friend (Lizzie, played by Angela Sweeting) erupt into his dilemma and ply him with champagne and sandwiches because it's his first real case. The tension is built nicely through Rupert's struggle with mounds of paperwork, continual and increasingly strident mobile phone calls from Geoffrey and motherly smothering. Mother and Lizzie are wonderfully inopportune.
The Deep End by Owain Johnston directed by Jym Brier brings to life the fraught relationship between Otis Barton (Maxwell King), self-effacing, brilliant inventor of the undersea exploration vessel the bathysphere and his ego-tripping, headline-grabbing faithless boss William Beebe (Nick Walker). Thrown into the mixture is Beebe's casual sexual “arrangement” with the object of Otis' love, pretty Gloria Hollister (Natasha Kneeland). Otis is dangling in the bathysphere half a mile under the Atlantic Ocean off Bermuda while Beebe and Hollister exist as disembodied voices in his headphones. An acting tour de force by King, this entertainment carries with it a large grain of historical plausibility.
Home Visits by Liz Jones, directed by Julia Frith. Hanni (Claudia Hall) visiting her elderly mother (Christina Frith) in a care home (Phyllida the carer played by Patricka Ferguson) experiences a time reversal with the arrival of her mother in her bedroom as a young woman in the middle of an air raid in the Second World War. Lapidary and Wildean dialogue shows the huge and almost unbridgeable socio/cultural gaps between the two women from 40 years apart but there is huge poignancy in this brief meeting between mother and daughter. The sounds and music were masterfully done, ending with the director's brilliantly chosen song I want to be loved by you, surely the nub of this play.
Pecking Order by Julia Pitt and Justine Foster directed by Deborah Smith-Joell has Sarah (Izabella Arnold) trying to get her life into some sort of order, find independence and qualify as a life coach while living in her mother's pool house. In the meanwhile on the one hand she's being hectored by her overbearing mother (Deborah Pharoah-Williams) about her marriage prospects and on the other by obsessive-compulsive, loony cleaner Mrs Pitcher (Evelyn MacGregor). The examiner (Shae James) tries to make sense of the exam interview responses with the mother continually butting in. This was a fun piece.
Thank You for Riding by W.M. Greig, directed by Adam Gauntlett was the most enigmatic play of the evening in which two young people on the London Eye, well played by Charles Doyle and Emily Ross, conduct a battle of the sexes, a series of sexual skirmishes in which they find out the reality of each other's lives during their ride which, more roller-coaster than Ferris wheel, finally sets them out again with the terse robot command “Please exit on the left”.
Fool's Mate by Adam Gauntlett, directed by Janice McLean, acts out this two-move checkmate with some fine comic acting from utterly incompetent yet paranoid King (Alan Brooks), his bossy and louche Queen (Nicola Flood) together with two nicely crafted and contrasting pawns: smart, gung-ho, loyal Queen's pawn (Chinyere Nwasike) and cynical, bored veteran King's pawn (Gabriel Frith). The chessboard metaphor has been done before, of course, but this time the comedy was infectious and original.
So there you have it. All six are good, all of them hold us from start to finish, the direction and acting are all excellent, the technical crew are flawless. In my opinion, this is really good value for a fun evening.