Writers: Amy Bethan Evans, Adam Fenton, Kathryn Golding, Kate Lovell and Nicole Joseph
Directors: Cheryl Martin, Nickie Miles-Wildin and Naomi Wirthner
A scratch night for the rehearsed readings of new writing by Deaf and/or disabled writers, the organisers ensured a warm and supportive atmosphere – genially hosted by Sharon D. Clarke and Leanna Benjamin. The evening was audio described, live captioned and British Sign Language interpreted.
Each writer had been invited to engage with a specific ‘boxset’ genre. The first, written by Adam Fenton, addresses romantic comedy, and is a nicely constructed story of unrequited love. Two friends wake up in a shared bed, after a big night out: Elliot (a nuanced performance by Evlyne Oyedokun), however, doesn’t remember a thing, a neat conceit which allows Frankie (Amelia Cavallo, also excellent) to recount the events of the evening. Elliot is sheepish, but rather delighted to hear of her unexpected bravery in accosting a bully; her mind is elsewhere, however, and before her friend can tell her of the night’s denouement, and reveal their own feelings, she has moved on. Attentive to both the focused attention of the lover and the obliviousness of the beloved, the piece is very successful.
The next reading was a response to ‘period drama’ by Kathryn Golding, and offers an intriguing premise: a contemporary girl (Racheal Tse) in conversation with one of her ancestors, Cixi, Empress Dowager (played with aplomb by Melody Brown). There are some deft observations about contemporary dating, but the piece’s comic potential is perhaps not fully realised.
Amy Bethan Evans’ contribution was next, written in the style of a documentary. Using the 2nd person, familiar to us from nature documentaries in particular, Amelia Cavallo describes a blind or partially sighted protagonist struggling to follow a lecture in a large, noisy hall. The emotional restraint of the 2nd person and the detached vocabulary of the naturist (‘lesser spotted’) works well with the intensity of the emotion described, and the piece ends on a positive note, hoping that, at last, ‘the environment is adapting’ to the needs of those with disabilities.
In Kate Lovell’s take on science fiction, Sammy (Oyedokun), bored to tears in lockdown, and, searching for diversion online, stumbles into the multiverse and encounters Sammy 2 (Bea Webster). Sammy 2 lives in a world with no devastating viruses, no climate emergency and no idea about Donald Trump, and Sammy 1 is very tempted to make the jump, but cannot quite leave the world she knows behind. Both a critique of our failures, and a hymn to human artistry and communal experience, the piece is both funny and rather touching.
Nicole Joseph’s homage to the superhero genre was the final contribution, with Sista Brainz (Tse) and Supa Shero (Oyedokun) taking on the villainous Chancellor Grimm (Cavallo) in his pursuit of rabid privatisation, and the blatant protection of wealth. The satiric parallels with our world are only too clear, but there is a real vividness to the world created.
Given the brevity of the readings, a little additional scene setting would have been helpful in order to allow the audience more chance to grasp the circumstances of each distinct story.
Reviewed on 20 April 2021