What do you get when you give ten playwrights, ten directors and twenty actors ten days to make some theatre? (This isn’t a Maths question.) You’ll have The Pensive Federation’s annual collection of ten, ten-minute plays, Significant Other. Inspired by modern relationships, The Pensive Federation celebrates the ups and downs of our human connections with this event. This year, each writer was given an object that had to be included in the scene and serves as the short plays’ titles. On the whole, they were funny, touching and well performed, especially considering the playwright had only five days to write the script and the director and actors had five days to rehearse them. One of the scenes was even a musical, with songs and choreography.
The relationships presented run the gamut from flatmates, sisters, straight couples, mates to co-workers. Whilst most of the plays dealt with romantic relationships, others confront familial complexities and troublesome colleagues. As it’s an issue commonly ignored in an industry that favours youth, Panties commands attention for being the sole play focusing on older characters. Here, a couple try to find the love and excitement in their relationship again now that their children are grown. All provided objects were completely random; some writers worked them into the plot more effectively than others did. My particular favourite was a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Harrison Ford, absurdly fought over by a couple who both fancied him.
As for the scripts, some are certainly stronger than others. None of them are poor and some had potential to be brilliant. Of note, Blu-Ray (by Anna Forsyth), Shirt (by Joseph Lidster and composed by Griffinn Candey), Ring (by Leah Cowan) and Life-size Cardboard Cut-out (by Breman Rajkumar) have the most potential and can certainly stand up to further development. Direction is simple but effective in all plays, with minimal set used and a focus on characters and their relationships. Of the performances, though all are consistent, Catherine Nix-Collins and Jeremy Donovan particularly shone as best friends and flatmates in Blu-Ray, with Jeremy’s character about to move in with his boyfriend and Catherine’s coming to terms with him leaving. Anthony Couzens in Cash evoked pity with his washed up underground ticket seller who fancies his much younger colleague.
Singling out one of the plays as a favourite, or “best,” is impossible. Stylistically, most are initially grounded in reality with subject matter that the audience can relate to, even if on a basic level. Rather than being complete plays, most were snapshots of a larger issue and well-rounded characters. This really is an event that appeals to everyone: gay, straight, young, old, people with children, people who work, people who have friends and people who have families. The default was comedy rather than drama, with some excellent execution of comic timing and sensibility. Performances could become quite heightened, but the emotions matched. Despite the comedic bent, there was plenty of poignancy across the board as well. Including a focus on an object draws attention to the attachment we have to material goods, particularly when we associate them with someone we love, or hate, or otherwise feel strongly about. The only play where this idea could be more fully realised is Oil Can (by Giles Fernando) but the tension created between two former schoolmates is commendable.
This is an enjoyable evening in The Actors’ Centre Tristan Bates Theatre. Plenty of comedy and writing that couldn’t be fresher help ease the predictability of the format in an evening that could do with being a couple of plays shorter. The Pensive Federation clearly have a great instinct for discovering and showcasing new talent and will should develop some these micro-plays further.
Star Rating: ☆☆☆
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