‘A worthy showcase of the short play form’: FEAST FROM THE EAST – Tristan Bates Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Touring by Debbie GilpinLeave a Comment

Tristan Bates Theatre – until 18 May 2019
Guest reviewer: Ellen Casey

Feast from the East is a series of eight short plays from INK Festival, showcasing the playwriting talent from East Anglia; they’re on the road and in London. There are a couple of heavy hitters in there too; Richard Curtis (Love Actually, most good Hugh Grant films) has penned a play with his daughter Scarlett Curtis, Another Suitcase in Another Hall. It’s the perfect opener to the Feast, a gentle comedic snack that involves flying suitcases and a thwarted song.

It’s been a banner week of short plays for me, and it’s not a medium I usually get to see a lot of. That’s one of the stated purposes of Feast from the East; to show an “under-utilised artform”. In this it completely succeeds – it’s really refreshing to see such punchy, perfectly-formed plays. Nothing drags here because there isn’t enough time for it to. Every word and action is measured and purposeful, in a way that feels satisfying to watch.

There’s a lot of variety here too – from the unexpected social traps that come with getting older in Invisible Irene to a The Tempest-inspired indictment of isolationism in After Prospero. There’s no real theme or common thread, which is to its credit – it’s like a really pleasant theatrical rollercoaster. Feast is right, though it might have more in common with an upmarket buffet.

That said, there’s some variation in quality in the plays – it’s not an incredible flaw necessarily, perhaps just a question of taste more than anything else. Nothing is really a disappointment, just slightly under-cooked, especially when contrasted against more remarkable offerings.

Luckily the acting – recurring actors jump into each short play – is exemplary, especially considering the tone jumping from comedic to social commentary in a flash. Standouts include Will Howard in Mixed Up (written by James McDermott), a painfully romantic monologue, delivered excellently by Howard; Ed Jones in both Another Suitcase and the hilarious That’s Great! (Shaun Kitchener), where he consistently nails his comedic cues (a trickier feat than you would think); and Ann Bryson in Invisible Irene (Jackie Carreira), a confident and layered performance.

Finally, props have to go to the set designer; as mentioned, these are very different plays, and set changes happen in a flurry of movement, with props being handled onto the stage by the non-performing actors. The result is seamless, each set appropriate, no matter the subject matter.

INK Festival: Feast from the East
Photo credit: Origin 8 Photography

My verdict? A feast indeed, and a worthy showcase of the short play form.

INK Festival: Feast from the East runs at Tristan Bates Theatre until 18 May 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office.

Tags: Ann Bryson, Ed Jones, Feast from the East, INK Festival, Jackie Carreira, James McDermott, London, review, Richard Curtis, Scarlett Curtis, Shaun Kitchener, theatre, Tristan Bates Theatre, West End, Will HowardCategories: all posts, Ellen Casey, Guest review, review, theatre

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Debbie Gilpin
Debbie Gilpin stumbled into writing about theatre when she moved to London after studying for a degree in Human Genetics at Newcastle University. She started her website Mind the Blog in November 2014 and also tweets from @Mind_the_Blog. She spent the best part of 2014-16 inadvertently documenting Sunny Afternoon in the West End, and now also writes for BroadwayWorld UK. Debbie’s theatre passions are Shakespeare and new writing, but she’s also a sucker for shows with a tap routine.
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Debbie Gilpin on FacebookDebbie Gilpin on RssDebbie Gilpin on Twitter
Debbie Gilpin
Debbie Gilpin stumbled into writing about theatre when she moved to London after studying for a degree in Human Genetics at Newcastle University. She started her website Mind the Blog in November 2014 and also tweets from @Mind_the_Blog. She spent the best part of 2014-16 inadvertently documenting Sunny Afternoon in the West End, and now also writes for BroadwayWorld UK. Debbie’s theatre passions are Shakespeare and new writing, but she’s also a sucker for shows with a tap routine.

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