Tristan Bates Theatre, London
12 days, eight shows, one director – The Pensive Federation celebrates its fifth anniversary with a series of showcase pieces that are written, rehearsed and performed in such a short space of time. Two groups of actors are brought onside to perform four shows each, giving 12 days for 48 minutes of material. Of course, an appreciation for the short timeframe can be allowed for each show; nevertheless the material presents a wide range of capabilities from actors and writers alike.
Neil J. Byden’s direction overall is limited, only natural given the attention that must be paid to understanding the numerous characters’ each actor has to portray. A white set with a simple table and chairs presents itself as a blank canvas, with which the audience experiences locations ranging from a tube carriage, to a space capsule, to an abandoned train station at midnight. Each actor gives a credible performance overall, with special mention attributed to Jessica Aquilina and Felicity Walsh, who draw the eye in the majority of their respective group performances.
Here the focus is on the writing and two writers stand out from the crowd; the final two performances – Scoop by Jayne Edwards and Huddle by Andy Curtis best capture a real-life situation and the poignant controversy involved with either the social or interactive politics involved. Edwards’ script centres around corporate survival, interns that are unwittingly pitted against each other for a handful of permanent roles. Journalists sacrifice their ideals in favour of the grand prize, a Lord of the Flies situation in which mutual appreciation quickly descends into vicious competition. The truth, it seems, is an optional luxury.
But it is Curtis’ writing that has the most credibility in this showcase. A crowded tube carriage, a delayed journey because of another passenger’s illness, a situation that should objectively garner feelings of sympathy and concern. Not for the regular commuters – this is all about anger, disdain and annoyance about the delay to their more important lives. Yet when a member of their carriage is ill from a completely self-inflicted overindulgence, the others band together in equally strong response to assist.
The Collective Project emphasises all that connects much of society in a tumultuous year of change – the more successful writing transcends specific events in favour of a commonality that the audience responds more powerfully to. Informed by collective nouns, each incorporates a sense of their inspiration; some pieces have potential for intrigue and development.
The Collective Project played the Tristan Bates Theatre until 17 December 2016. For more information, see the Tristan Bates Theatre website
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