Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Empty Pocket Theatre - a great new company with great new ideas.

Empty Pocket Theatre
YMCA Theatre, Roath
July 2nd 2011

Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard

[On]Stage was a one night event designed to showcase the talents of two up and coming writers. The main theme was how offstage characters can give more influence that those onstage.

Hello Mrs Silverstone
Written and Directed by Natalie Stone

One of the first rules of writing is to avoid on-stage phone conversations at all costs, they can be clich├ęd, badly timed and boring. Somehow Natalie Stone managed to create a script that was engaging and though provoking that completely relied on the telephone.

A lonely and confused old lady repeatedly calls the Parker household wanting to speak to her son Jonny Silverstone, he ignores her calls and never visits. Forgetting she called just five minutes ago she calls again and again. Time after time Jonny Parker has to go through the heartbreaking process of telling her that he is not her son, no he doesn’t know her son, no this is not where her son lives.

Soon these phone calls become an ever present annoyance to the Parker family; Mrs Parker cannot receive messages from her new boss, their daughter cannot get five minutes on the phone to talk to her boyfriend, their answer phone is full of messages from a little old lady they do not know and have no connection with.

When the messages suddenly stop Jonny is forced to look at his own life; he is still grieving over his mother’s death, he has not forgiven his brother for not being there when she died and he is still burning with the guilt of being a neglectful son, much like Jonny Silverstone.

Cleverly planned lighting often helped to illustrate the isolation grief had caused for Jonny and took the awkwardness away from those difficult to negotiate “24 hours later” style scene changes.

The one downside was that often the stage was left empty; phone messages were left to run for a little too long and it made me wonder if the script was better suited to a radio play. Having said this, when the cast were onstage each one of them inhabited their character and it always seemed as if there really was someone on the other end of the phone.

With a poignant message about the dissolution of the family unit and the treatment of older people in our society, ‘Hello Mrs Silverstone’ is a wonderfully observed piece that skilfully combines humour and tragedy. A great place to start a potentially trailblazing career in theatre.

A Sunday Roast
Written and Directed by Anna Poole

All of us can get trapped in routine, the same old thing day in, day out and perhaps one of the most common routines in this country is Sunday dinner with the in-laws. Not wanting to offend our partners or their parents we turn up and engage in the same conversations again and again, but how often do we say the things worth talking about?

In ‘A Sunday Roast’ we are the unseen and uninvited guests at Gav’s parents’ house. Very much the stereotypical Welsh family; Gav’s mum loves to play host and entertains illusions of grandeur, whereas Dad seems much more relaxed and is of course an avid rugby fan.

Gav is the perfect son in their eyes, he can do no wrong, but his wife Adelaide is another story completely. Adelaide has never been happy with this quiet life, she longs to use her university education in art to travel the world and have exciting adventures, but like us all she gets trapped in the comforting monotony of life.

Through masterfully choreographed pieces we get an insight into Adelaide’s head, for her the routine is a deafening cacophony, shouting disappointment, lost dreams and the death of her unborn child. Out of this discord steps another Adelaide, perhaps the true, unshielded version of herself. This Adelaide talks to her unseen therapist about her horrific miscarriage and her own loss of excitement about life. Eventually the boundaries between the two sides of Adelaide blur and merge to create deadly consequences.

This darkly beautiful piece explores our hidden desires and unfulfilled ambitions; showing the damage this sense of disappointment can cause. Emotionally charged, beautifully staged, acted to perfection, this dream-like piece will haunt its audience for a long time.

Both pieces were thought provoking and offered up a fresh look at modern theatre. Although very different in delivery the contrasting performances complimented each other and have definitely marked Empty Pocket as a company to watch. Very well done.

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