By PAUL COUCH
It’s a fantastic idea – an arena to try embryonic work in a safe environment in front of an audience. The premise is that you get 20 minutes to try out new work – some barely started, some almost complete. If the panel of judges feel that the work has potential to be developed further, they can award £1000 to enable the artist(s) to do so.
The New Wolsey Theatre’s Pulse Festival has been running its Suitcase day for the past four years. There’s just one condition – the show has to be able to be moved on public transport. Of course, that means that many of the shows end up being presented simply in the New Wolsey’s Black Box stages but several, including Two Destination Language, (first ever winners of te Suitcase Prize) come up with innovative stagings, in this case, rolls of lining paper hung from the theatre’s rig, onto which video projected.
Suitcase Day started off with Gameshow’s Dancing Bear, Dancing Bear, an evocative study of how men interact with each other, performed by founders Matt Ryan and Matthew Evans. Following this, Filipa Tomas and Bradley Wayne Smith of Single Shoe Productions, who brought an anarchic take on death and how we deal with the uncomfortable truths about our loved ones after they’ve departed. The indiscretions of the deceased stage magicians in A Disappearing Act come back to haunt his ‘grieving’ family and a few members of the audience.
Ending the first segment of Suitcase Day On The Run Theatre’s one-man show, performed by David Ralfe, about rationalising someone else’s eating disorder – and supporting them – while still in your own teenage years. Harrowing yet illuminating, Ralfe’s casual delivery belied the gravity of the content.
Pauline Mayers’ What if I Told You had most of the audience on stage with her in order to break down barriers of broad generalisation and to focus on the individual.My Feminist Boner, performed by Sarah Blanc is an examination of just what lengths women are pressured into in order to ‘be the best they can possibly be’… on the outside anyway. Blanc uses an array of ridiculous but genuine props in order to deflate the peer-pressured perfect body image ethos.
There are a number of companies that we could easily see being developed further – Glen Pearce, The Reviews Hub
At first, This Egg’s Goggles might have seemed like quite a fluffy exploration of early years girly friendships but a surprising dark twist took the piece in a much more unexpected direction for its audience. The company
As one might expect with scratch work, the quality and potential across the day varied wildly, with some of the work more successfully presented than others. Some appeared to be fully formed, while others ranged from misconceived through self-indulgent to barely ready to be shown to an audience. However, Pulse isn’t a forum to present polished work, but rather one to ascertain what works and what doesn’t.
The judging panel consisted of Executive Director of Camden People’s Theatre Amber Massie-Blomfield, The Reviews Hub’s Deputy Executive Editor, Glen Pearce, and Stanley Rudkin, one of the New Wolsey’s Young Associates.
Last year’s winners (formerly This Theatre, now The Pretend Men), used their prize money to develop further their parody of American police shows of the 70s, 80s and 90s, complete with loud clothes and stereotypes. The trio returned to Suffolk for a finished performance of Police Cops and to present a cheque for £1000 to the eventual winners of this year’s Suitcase Prize, On The Run.
Afterwards, On The Run’s performer and Co-Artistic Director, David Ralfe, commented: “”We’re delighted to have won this year’s Suitcase Prize. The prize money will be a great help to usas we get ready to premiere Tell Me Anything at the Edinburgh Fringe in August before a two week run at Shoreditch Town Hall in London, in September.”
“We had an extremely enjoyable day, performing alongside a host of brilliant acts. Thanks to the New Wolsey and to [festival co-producers] China Plate.”
For the judges, Glen Pearce said: “Selecting a winner was a tough decision, with much debate between all three judges. We were really impressed with the variety of work on show, making comparisonand judging even more difficult. It was a close decision and there are a number of companies that we could easily see being developed further.
“All three of us were excited by the prospect of both Gameshow Theatre and This Egg, and are sure both shows have a bright future and we really look forward to seeing On The Run’s completed piece at Pulse 2017.”
Pulse Festival continues until 4 June 2016