Writers: babirye bukilwa, Jessica Butcher, Chloe Todd Fordham
Directors: Miranda Cromwell, Chris Sonnex, Yasmeen Arden
The audio drama has been one of the big winners of recent months with several playwrights and theatre companies turning to this intimate genre in lieu of live performance. The second selection of three micro-plays by the Caravan Theatre, none lasting longer than 16-minutes, has a focus on the loss of parents, grief and whether time can really heal.
Water by babirye bukilwa is a love letter to the narrator’s mother and the changing relationship the family experiences as the protagonist grows from childhood to becoming an adult. All told in the first person, it begins at age four as the child enjoys the physicality of her mother’s presence, the hair products she uses and the ‘sinking sofa’ she sits on while bringing her a glass of water that is 70% cold. Immediately the scenario is full of warmth, trust and affection, each era punctuated with the phrase ‘she is my mother.’
But as the narrator ages, bukilwa slowly transitions from a feeling of comfort and the magical presence of her parent to a more complex interaction filled with teenage tantrums, division and retreat into separate individuals, so when the language changes to ‘she was my mother’ the audience knows something terrible has happened. At 16-minutes, directed by Miranda Cromwell, Water is a brief but poetic exploration of regret.
Jessica Butcher’s 13-minute play Time performed by Danusia Samal is slightly more upbeat mixing the story of aspiring songwriter Rose who loves in Woolwich and works on a clothing stall with ‘the Greenwich Time Lady’, Ruth Belville who sold the correct time to various businesses. There is also parental loss, insomnia and worry over past mistakes but Rose is determined to reach her goals.
Butcher frames her play like a songwriter, so sections of the story are verses with a sung chorus focusing on the nature of time which is repeated throughout the story. Later, as events escalate, Rose – who addresses the audience directly – talks of key changes while a relationship with her father links the piece together. It is perhaps the least impactful of the three stories, but its structural innovation is very enjoyable.
Finally, Chloe Todd Fordham’s Rage is the most claustrophobic experience as Aurora addresses her own inner rage while trying to find its ultimate source in order to release it. The rage itself is personified and Todd Fordham’s play imagines a conversation between performers Tanya Loretta Dee and Safiyya Ingar as they explore a traumatic incident that affected the 17-year old Aurora and notions of a global feminist anger that lead to an explosive conclusion.
Rage, running for 16 minutes also references lost parents as well as a low-level dissatisfaction in all of us that is hard to quantify. The way in which the rage grows from a placid presence to something more animalistic is well managed, yet the incorporation of facts on domestic violence (though valuable) are a little clunky. Even so, the overall message about the impact of global disasters on women’s rights is a strong one.
The Digital Caravan – Second Collection feels like a group of writers reckoning with the world, balancing the personal experience of family and day-to-day life with the external pressures of society and international news. Condensing stories to a micro length is not easy, and these three plays for Caravan Theatre are evocative and immersive. Explicitly free to listen to and with a combined length of just 45-minutes you should certainly make time to hear what these young playwrights have to say.