Rosemary Branch Theatre, London – until 14 November 2017
When I mentioned to friends the concept behind tonight’s production – thirty plays are performed within the space of an hour, with the audience deciding which order they’re acted in – they were skeptical that it might be a cheap gimmick which wouldn’t be pulled off effectively. Thankfully they were all completely wrong (and I shall now never trust their views again), as The Dirty Thirty is a unique theatrical delight filled with an infectious sense of joy throughout most of the hour.
That’s not to say that all of the pieces are humourous, whilst on this particular night about two thirds of the plays were upbeat and amusing, often causing the entire audience to roar with laughter, some of the monologues were surprisingly touching, with Daniel Collard’s tribute to his grandmother being especially moving. What could easily have been an exploitative piece of theatre felt like a very gentle and poignant exploration of his relationship with her, and her final days on this planet.
In the wrong hands it could be jarring to go from something so affecting to something outlandish comic or unusual but all of it is performed with such sincerity that it works superbly. Indeed the format of the show allows them to create something really quite unique, going from tragedy to comedy within an extremely short amount of time, or, for instance, from a thoughtful discussion on the pressures on women to have children when they’re not certain they want them at all to a quite unusual dance which sees the performer covered in liquid. Oh, and there’s also one part where a cast member allows himself to be drawn naked by a member of the audience, because it’s just that kind of night.
The format also allows them to take on topical matters in a way rarely seen on the stage outside of stand up comedy, here for instance Sergio Maggiolo spent two minutes talking about the recent allegations against Kevin Spacey, along with how when at RADA he was told that sometimes actors will need to strip naked during an audition, which of course is horribly bleak to hear, but also an extremely important occurrence that we need to be made aware of.
I’m fully aware that I’ve only mentioned Daniel Collard and Sergio Maggiolo so far within the review but that’s not to suggest in any way that the rest of the cast aren’t of an equal standing, with Laura Killen, Desiree Burch, Kate Jones, Jay Wakely, Gabrielle MacPherson and Graham Self impressing throughout. It’s rare to see a theatrical group where there aren’t one or two weak links but that isn’t the case here, with all turning in striking performances.
Degenerate Fox have created something rather special here, and The Dirty Thirty works as a reminder of all that theatre can be in a very short amount of time – my only complaint is that it isn’t called The Dirty Sixty and double the length.