Directors: Aisha Khan, Lucy Hind
Writers: Aina J. Khan, Ben Tagoe, Claire-Marie Seddon, Tom Wells, Rani Moorthy, Ray Sesay
Musical Director: Chris Noble
15 Minutes Live is a co-production between Slung Low and Freedom Studios in an afternoon of brand new short plays for radio with a live audience. In Tom Wells’ Super Powers, Richard Standing as Ian plays a superhero out in the Arctic in a small canoe replete with seagull calls and waving arms. Of course the latter is superfluous as this is radio and there is no need for a cape, spandex body suit and y-fronts outside his trousers. But he claims two forms of super power, namely invisibility and flying, the latter he does when he can’t be seen! And of course, like any superhero, he needs a theme tune to which end he gets his daughter a recorder for her birthday present, plus Mum has a Casio synth and Ian encourages her to believe in her talent to play a backing theme. Then Ian is apparently in an abandoned castle which is a hotbed of criminal activity and fortuitously comes across a space shuttle enabling him to fly off into space. The monologue includes quite a few references to the ever-topical COVID pandemic and Ian is able to spot Leeds on the distant globe running on ‘hope and oatcakes’. Wells’ humour is surrealistic and off-the-wall, Standing plays the role for laughs to much hilarity, and Lucy Hind’s direction keeps the piece tight enough to fit the 15-minute time restraint.
In The Clinic by Ray Sesay, we witness Dan Norford as Leon visiting a sexual health surgery which sees him full of awkwardness and embarrassment. Richard Standing plays Dan’s conscience and we see the ego and alter ego mirroring each other, sharing false memories and just generally being argumentative. There is conflict as to whether Leon’s partner wanted to use a condom or not, with Leon claiming she had agreed to a morning-after test, his conscience disagreeing. Leon goes on to proclaim that sex is better without a condom but again the conscience points out the risk of passing on an STD. Sesay examines the dichotomy with a skilfully-written script that, despite being great fun, raises serious issues as well. Once more Hind directs in a way as to keep the narrative flowing, dense and lively.
The most serious of the six scripts has to be Rani Moorthy’s The Coolie Project that relates a tale of modern slavery. Carolyn Eden (played with sincerity and authenticity by Angela Jarvis) is the manager of silk sari factory where one of the workers, known as Raja (SujeethG), has gone wild, destroying the looms. Eden brings in the Raja’s niece Priya (a convincing and capable Lydia Hasoon) to calm things down. But it turns out that Priya’s family sold him into slavery when he was just a child and to leave the factory without paying the debt would bring shame on the family. No spoilers here but Raja’s fate turns from servitude to being swept to safety. “I can start again,” he cries. “I can fly.”
Aina J. Khan’s Achaar sees three generations of an Asian family with the youngest seeking work and noting, upon being turned down, “when one door closes another opens” rather stoically. The grandmother is suffering from throbbing back pain and is a lover of both Mother Hubbard’s fish and chips and Qawwali, the quintessentially English and Asian respectively. The daughter finally is successful in her job search and they go to a Persian restaurant to celebrate. Bad news comes though as it is discovered that grandma has kidney cancer stage 3 but takes it all rather calmly. Achaar captures the characters skilfully and Aisha Khan’s direction highlights the dialogue’s cultural diversity and profundity.
Ben Tagoe’s Northern Skies is a real crowd-pleaser given its central character, Jules, being from Holbeck where the recording is taking place. In his childhood Jules is rather reclusive and shy but has a fascination with the “endless black beyond”, the night sky and all its mysteries. He is clearly well-studied in astrophysics and his obsession eventually rubs off as he takes part in a recruitment fair for astronauts.
The show ends on a real feel-good high with Claire-Marie Seddon’s Dream a Little Dream. Lucy Rafton plays a grand-daughter visiting her comatose grandmother and we hear the beeping of a heart monitor beneath her ukulele recital. She is torn between a secure job as a dental nurse and her singing career as the next Doris Day. The full chamber orchestra accompany her at the end of the afternoon’s recordings with a blissful rendition of Dream a Little Dream, another success for director Aisha Khan.
Also particularly noteworthy is Musical Director Chris Noble and his four fellow musicians who add much drama and atmospherics to all six pieces, and Alan Lane who comperes the event with wit and style
Reviewed on 10th July2021. Recorded live at The Holbeck, Leeds