Pauline Stobbs delves into a night of new theatre from Tiny Dog Productions.
It was a sunny evening in Forest Hill, a lot further south of the river than I usually go, when I was led into the basement of a pub. The reason? To see six plays of new writing each lasting no more than twenty minutes.
I had my concerns that six back-to-back plays by writers I’d never heard of could feel relentless. However Theatre Breaks offers a winning format. Run by Tiny Dog productions, a multi-disciplinary theatre company based in London, the festival is designed to be a platform for new work, and often the first chance for writers and directors to gauge the audience’s reaction. Having six plays offers a diverse programme of themes and styles, and most audiences are fair enough to gamble twenty minutes of time for the benefit. And there were some real winners in the night’s performances.
By far, the best writing and acting of the night was presented by Empty Photo Theatre: “Brendan Behan would understand”. Chewing the fat on confessions of love and ‘honesty versus truth’ has the potential to be a bit much for midweek, but the writer Vicki Baron managed to weave an incredibly powerful, persuasive and surprisingly humorous piece. The actors Jon Cottrell and John MacCormick were incredibly skilled and enriched the sophisticated and somewhat complex narrative. The twenty minutes seemed like seconds. Certainly ones to watch.
Other highlights came from the poignant performance by Mary Benn as an anxious Audrey in sombre drama ‘Upon This Earth’ and the suave priggishness of Jonathan Butler as the banker in revenge tale ‘The Fixer’.
It would be a miracle if the very first performance of new work didn’t have a few clunky moments of forgotten lines, awkward staging or corny moments. I am not yet convinced by the ‘eternal hilarity’ of the aged and the Welsh in the farcical ‘Tea with Mam-Gu’, or the ethereal staging of literary historic ‘The Truth Untold’.
Theatre Breaks deserves all the support they have been getting and more for offering an accessible platform for new writing. And, perhaps more importantly, for offering a decent night out for risk-seeking theatre lovers.
Click through for more information on future performances of Theatre Breaks or follow on Twitter @tinydogtheatre