Writers: Elisabeth Giffin Speckman, Linda Robinson, Vicky Richards, Warren Paul Glover, Ken Preuss, Liam Fleming
Directors: Liam Fleming, Rachael Owens, Sam Dunstan, Jonathan Woodhouse
‘How many last things do we do without realising it?’ asks Liam Fleming in the concluding play of Bare E-ssentials 5: Far from Home: well remember this because it is the last online show that Encompass Productions will offer, at least for now. With a return to live shows promised in November, this grand finale once again welcomes an international creative team, pairing writers with directors and performers to deliver an ambitious six new plays in an hour.
One of the best shorts of the night is Vicky Richards’ Nuns. Running at under 10-minutes, this monologue begins with the protagonist eating a cucumber and explaining her admiration for the holy sisters. The light-hearted mention of their pleasing colour scheme and non-threatening presence soon gives way to more revealing insights and Richards skilfully unfolds a sense of this young woman’s life, the various responsibilities and decisions that make her feel underwhelmed and alone.
Directing Nuns, Liam Fleming intriguingly places a camera in the fridge – possibly a lockdown first – before creating a fixed position in the corner of the kitchen which performer Holli Dillon uses with confidence, not afraid to leave the shot for dramatic effect. This combination of storytelling and technique gives this comic tale a valuable undertone of melancholy.
Fleming’s first contribution as a writer, Little Prizes, has a similar balance of carefree and tragic as the character recalls hunting for toys in cereal packets which leads to an existential crisis about the way memory records moments you know are final rather than events that are circumstantially the end. Performed by Alice Corrigan, Little Prizes shifts between three different ideas including the death of a relative as well as the uneven end of a relationship and has an honesty that ends the evening on a bittersweet note.
Elisabeth Giffin Speckman contributes the shortest play with a 3-minute monologue performed by a high-energy Jennie Delaney entitled Suburban Buffalo in which the audience is the unlucky victim of an accident, a piece of writing that has plenty of potential for expansion. Linda Robinson’s The Front Line plays with technology as Jason (Ryan Brannon) is interviewed for a role as a Prison Officer by Mr Davidson (Mark Keegan) which becomes derailed by Jason’s obsession with violent implements and the physical paraphernalia of policing. It escalates a little too quickly and Jason’s obsession is never explained but at just 12-minutes, characterisation is strong.
The remaining plays both have an interesting premise; Ken Preuss’ A Dave With Destiny sets-up an online chat between two people who think they may know each other and whose paths have accidentally crossed. Performed by Delaney and Ramzi DeHani, there is a credible chemistry between the two actors even if the conclusion is a little unexpected. Perhaps most ambitious of all is Warren Paul Glover’s Brothers in Arms set during the First World War as two brothers serve alongside each other as a secret comes to light moments before a big push. Occasionally a little too pat in its reference to terrible Generals and shell shock, Glover creates the circulatory of family conversation well, even if the story itself offers few surprises. However, the final moments imply a sensationalist outcome for one brother for which there is no substantiated evidence for this conflict.
And with that it is all over for online Bare E-ssentials. Yet as one door closes, another opens with the live show at the White Bear in November. With plenty of movie sequel titles still unused and who knows what level of pandemic yet to come, we can be sure that Encompass Productions will return for Judgement Day or Fallout and maybe just to relive the Days of Future Past.