Published on October 16th, 2015 | by Lauren Donoghue0
Review: WriteFest – Progress Theatre
For ten years now, Progress Theatre has been using Writefest as an opportunity to showcase local talent, and as currently one of the only platforms for new writing in Reading I would say this year’s offering is definitely worth your time.
Seven short plays in total make up the evening, with lovely comic interludes from Reading’s Alternative Queen Gog, who, by the way, can do the most uncanny impression of a train I have ever heard.
The programme is well balanced in terms of light and dark, intensely emotional pieces tempered well with a couple of light-hearted ones, and though looking back over the line-up I realised that the balance tended more towards drama than comedy, the evening never felt heavy or overwhelmingly sad.
The opening gambit, Abstract Art by Andrew Porte, felt a little over-filled. There was too much to explain straight away, and the story was a little too complex to be fully realised in such a short space of time, so I came away from it thinking that it was unresolved, and that with a little more development it would work better as a longer piece.
A Fishy Tale was a silly, comic piece, with a ridiculous premise and a satisfying punchline. I especially enjoyed Sarah Pearce’s teary Janet and Silvia Gil’s excitable pet shop assistant, though the slide-show and narration at the very beginning seemed out of place.
Inheritance by Emily Goode was by far my favourite of the night. John Goodman and Kelly Hugo as ailing grandfather and doting grand-daughter completely stole my heart, the affection between them easy and familiar and yet strained by circumstance. Their relationship was well-established and lovely to watch, and the weaving of famous literary quotes into the dialogue was poetic and poignant. A beautiful piece, tinged with sadness but left me smiling.
Cold Shoulder, by comparison fell quite flat. The idea was promising, but the world was vaguely defined and not real enough to be effective. The private moments between husband and wife had potential, the dialogue compelling, but lacking any kind of real connection.
Back from the interval with a bang, Don’t Say A Word piled the emotional issues up high, perhaps a little too high. But the cast managed to reign in the buckaroo potential and create honest and heartfelt moments. Izzy Hayden especially shone in the last scene when her teenage bravado dropped leaving a scared little girl in its wake.
Probably the cleverest piece in terms of theatricality, Grow Up was very well staged. Emma Wyvern’s performance I found particularly effective, her body and face transforming with real subtlety as she moved through each stage of life. Quite bleak in all honesty, but still enjoyable.
Mr Right was a perfect way to end the show, a lovely little love story with an ending that you know is coming right from the start, but you don’t care because it is just so very satisfying when it does, and with the addition with a lovely little word play that I honestly did not anticipate. All parts here are played beautifully, although special mention has to go to Geoff Dallimore as despicable yuppy businessman Nick, he is perfection.
New writing nights are always, in my experience, a little bit hit and miss. A sort of Schrodinger’s play they are always somehow both good and bad. Good because the pieces you like can be exciting and inspiring, and bad because the pieces you don’t like seem all that much worse for coming after or between the ones you did.
Writefest was no exception to this rule. But as an evening spent perusing what our local playwrights have to offer, I consider it time well spent.
Writefest is running at Progress Theatre until Saturday 17th October.
Photo by Aidan Moran.