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New Plays at the National
08 August 2011 by Nicky
How does one make an evening of one act plays sound appealing?
Maybe a bit like a short story collection (even though that would
be by one author), it rarely sells in quite the same way.
The National Theatre's idea of Double
Feature in the Paintframe, is as good as any..
And maybe like starting with a short story collectdion very near
the end of the book, we watched the second pair of shows and
frankly loved it. And here we are trawling the Internet
trying to find a good review … and failing. But sticking to our
guns (and there were plenty of those in the second play) we reckon
that maybe the mistake is with the planning committee. Perhaps the
order of the two sets of plays didn't quite work. Without
having seen DF1 we can't argue with the reviews, but we take issue
with a couple of notices for DF2.
Stephanie Street in Nightwatchman
Nightwatchman by Prasanna Puwanarajah (who incidentally
is appearing next door at the National in Emperor and
Galilean) is a one woman performance by Stephanie Street
playing Abirami who has been called up for the British Women's
Cricket team at Lords. Practising against a bowling machine in the
indoor nets, the 45 minute speech tells of a British Sri
Lankan yougster growing up in a troubled relationship with
her father and her passion for the game. Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard argues that the monologue is "steeped in
recondite references and packs in too much". I disagree. Yes a
working knowledge of the Tamil Tigers' war against the Sri Lankan
government would have helped, but there is nothing that your
average NT theatre goer wouldn't have been able to cope with.
Stephanie Street's performance was terrific, full of wit and
flashes of brilliant timing although a few quieter moments would
have meant more light and shade for this theatre goer.
Nightwatchman might have seen the light of day as a
radio play. Did playwright Puwanarajah have personal experience of
a parent who had trouble with his Tamil/British identity and a
brother who committed atrocities with the Tigers? Possibly not, yet
in the white middle class audience it was difficult to bring up the
conversation about Tamil identity in the interval.
And let's hear it for the sound team at the National! Imaginary
balls are bowled at great speed, it's perfectly obvious where they
pitch and how she plays each one to different parts of the field.
Even when ball beats bat, the nets magically react. Fabulous
stagecraft - can anyone tell us how it was done? We found ourselves
sitting dangerously at forward short leg. (So my husband tells
Second half brought us to There is War by Tom Basden
- about the futility of conflict which for me at least had a
"Good soldier Svejk meets Alice in Wonderland" feel to it.
The country is at War. The Greys are fighting the Blues. That's all
one needs to know. OK, perhaps once the idea is set, ("Do you think
it will help my career if I kill myself?") it did drive the point
home with a unsubtle hammer, and might have come straight from the
Edinburgh Fringe but it's an idea the director Lyndsey Turner had
enormous fun with. The black comedy is surreal as Dr. Anne (Phoebe
Fox) goes on a picaresque attempt to find the hospital where she
can actually do some work - and when she gets there?
|Oliver Birch in There is War
Well that would be giving away a satisfying ending. It would be
slightly unfair to highlight one performance but Oliver Birch's
troop entertaining Stewart de Lune, was delightfully daft and
Don't be put off by the benches. Unless you have a serious back
problem or are over 2 metres tall,they fine.
Double feature 1 & 2 runs
in The Paintframe until 10th September
Photos - Johann Persson