Saturday, 6 October 2007

Woking Drama Festival - Day 4

Continuing my reviews of this year’s WDA Festival of One-Act Plays.

Thorpe Players presented excerpts from Closer by Patrick Marber

I approached this play with extreme prejudice, having seen the film and not cared for it at all. So, I was surprised that this production held my interest the whole way through.

This is a challenging contemporary piece with very adult content and very strong language all the way through and it demands that the actors play very naturalistically and with strong emotions throughout. I thought that the team of 4 actors managed this feat very well indeed.

I thought that Thorpe Players could have chosen to make the scene changes more slick and flowing - maybe using the whole stage to move from location to location, rather than performing scene changes in front of the black tabs. There was also some very noisy activity behind the scenes while the action was continuing in front.

But while I had reservations about the setting and the pace of the production overall, I found that the strength of the acting more than carried the drama forward and I found myself enjoying the play far more than I thought I would.

I have to pick out the two girls, Melissa Murphy as Alice and Angie Bews as Anna for particular praise in making their roles almost wholly believable; though I mist say that I though that Angie was a little younger than Anna should have been (as indeed was Wesley Wooden as Larry).

Chatting to people in the audience, this was a production which split the audience, and I think I was in the minority in thoroughly enjoying it.

Another Theatre Company presented Paper of Pins by Stella Rogers

Another new play for us to enjoy this week, and like Specialty a couple of days ago, this one also starred its writer.

The story of an old woman suffering from dementia and her interactions with her visiting daughter and a carer who has become a firm friend, this play explored questions about how memory works as we get old and how one might feel knowing that all this will soon be taken from us.

From beginning to end this was a highly moving and gripping production. If I had to quibble, I found the initial sound effects of the 'television' soundtrack a bit too loud (or maybe Stella Rogers as Winnie was a bit too quiet?) but that apart it dropped us into their world most convincingly.

All 3 actresses (Zoe Rogers and Alison Brennan were the others) gave immaculate performances which were totally believeable in every way.

So far the best production in the Festival. A fantastic show which I look forward to seeing again at the recall night if all goes well.

Queens Park Centre presented Crossing The Line by Pete Benson

Plays with kids don't usually do brilliantly at the festival. Well, plays with "youths" are OK, but when the kids are 13 or 14 history tends to remember them as being rather boisterous and well-meaning, but ultimately poor efforts.

I'm glad to say that none of the above was true for Crossing The Line. All the young actors on view here played exceptionally well and kept their characterisations unwavering through the whole piece.

This was a story about a group of kids who stumble across an injured bank robber, leading them to have to make a decision which could change their lives forever.

Despite a few moments when they were quieter than they should have been, they were all most convincing all the way through. And the story was very well constructed. Simple, with a nice twist, but keeping our interest unfailingly.

Finally the curse of the "poor 3rd play" has been broken this year.

What an enjoyable evening of theatre this was.

Come back tomorrow for a review of day 5.

I must stress that I am not a professionally qualified reviewer or adjudicator. My opinions are wholly subjective.

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