Saturday, 17 December 2016

REVIEW: EMERGE at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Last Sunday was the first EMERGE event, a new writing night organised by Flux Theatre at the Tristan Bates in Soho. EMERGE is a workshop in which 4 short pieces of 'work in progress' are performed to an audience and a professional industry panel, which then offer feedback to the artists in the second half of the event. 
I stayed for both the plays and the talk afterwards, which proved to be a great treat.
The first piece was “The Phlebotomist” by Ella Road that presented two women, a patient and a nurse. The scene was set in the future, and the patient had just found out that she had a low health score (due to her history of risky health conditions in her family) which made her undesirable to future employers. In a time when we feel like everything about us, including our health, is part of the economy, this was a strong opening piece.  
The talk after the show revealed not only that this was part of a full play, but that the nurse was the character whose life we will follow. The performances were very good, however the two actresses Nicola Taylor and Amy Cotter were of approximately the same age, which did not work for me: I would have wanted the nurse to be older, and show more authority, especially due to the patient showing she will do anything to avoid her score being published. I actually thought this was a standalone piece, with a clear beginning and end and thought it was nicely crafted.

The second piece was Stephanie Martin’s “Bridle”, a monologue by a woman who is being interrogated, possibly at a police station. The cluelessness as to why she is there at first let a Kafkaesque quality emerge. Then, as the woman starts to talk about her fiancĂ© and ex-lover, and discovers that her interrogator knows everything about her recent pornographic internet searches, the topic of surveillance comes out. 
The actress Ella Road delivered the speech magnificently but in terms of the writing, the progress of certain moments in the speech were not clear. Again, the audience later found out that this was part of a longer monologue that Martin will put on very soon. The story definitely shows a lot of promise and I am sure audiences will be excited about it. I must note however that it would be better if criticism for a piece were not met with “but this is actually a longer play”. It should be either one or the other and I had the feeling this aspect threw the panel a little.
The third piece was “Bolero” by Tatty Hennessey. This was another really strong piece, touching on speech disabilities and the effects they have on a family. Here we had three actors on stage, including Isabel Crowe as Anne, a mother whose thoughts are very clear in her own head, as is shown in the opening few minutes, but cannot come out of her mouth the way she would like. Crowe delivered this beautifully and broke our hearts. This was a truly intimate moment, and presented a theme that we are not exposed to that often in media.
Finally, we were shown “Biscuit” by Recce Connolly. This was actually the only short play, as opposed to being an extract from a longer one, and appealed to me immensely. Will Adolphy played Jack, a big boss at a large company who starts interviewing Lee for a high-paying job, played by Nick Pople. Jack seems eccentric and excited for some reason, and we realise throughout the scene that Lee bullied him when they were both in high school – something Lee had not realised at all and that Jack finds revenge for in his own poignant way. 
I enjoyed the clear structure of this short play, the excellent performances which brought us on the edge of our seats, and the unclear ethical message of it. Who is stronger? The one who has revenge, or the one who lets go? There is something delicious about watching revenge though, isn’t there!
This was a lovely event presenting all kinds of exciting new writing, but due to the majority of pieces being extracts, I would say that next time, at least two out of four should be standalone pieces. There is something really special about a piece being short and coming full circle, without any outside influence. Despite this, the quality of the writing was fantastic, so I would give a nod to the producers of EMERGE for selecting these. 
Finally, I am sure this is the first of many successful EMERGE events, as people seem to be craving new writing and challenging new thought-provoking scripts.  
 Reviewed by Sophie Tergeist  
 Rating: ★★★★
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