Writer: John Kolvenbach, Ffion Jones
Director: Sam Carrack, Suzy Catliff
Reviewer: Andy Moseley
For anyone old enough to remember going to the cinema and seeing a supporting feature before the main film, AllthePigs deliver the theatrical equivalent at New Diorama, as the main feature is preceded each night by the debut play from one of three young writers.
The first of the three is Ffion Jones’ Three Little Birds, a play set in and around Heathrow shortly before the end of the world. On the last tube, a free-spirited female traveller is thrown together with an older smartly-dressed businessman, while, somewhere else, a Welsh woman dressed for a holiday enters the world of an eccentric young plane spotter. The two pairs never properly cross each other’s paths with the action alternating between them over the course of half an hour.
While the conversations between the traveller and the businessman are, unfortunately, every bit as clichéd and stereotyped as their descriptions suggest, the scenes between the plane spotter and the tourist are a real delight. There is a refreshing humour and quirkiness in them that suggests Jones is an original voice who has a promising career, as long as she trusts her instincts and avoids the overt social commentary that straitjackets her in the other half of the play.
The four actors all give strong performances. Alice Pitt-Carter brings an emotion and personality to the traveller that belies the limitations of the script, and Nicola Kill makes the part of the plane spotter her own delivering the character with relish.
The main feature is John Kolvenbach’s Gizmo Love, where young British writer Ralph discovers, as many other writers have, that after his script gets picked up by Hollywood, it pretty soon ceases to be his script. His Bigness, the unseen studio boss, sends in veteran hack Manny to turn it into a blockbuster. From the outset, Jerome Thompson, as nervous newcomer Ralph, and Spencer Burrows, as ebullient tour-de-force Manny, deliver fantastic performances, making the most of an excellent script that satirises the Hollywood system but never gets po-faced. It would be easy for Ralph to become jaded and disillusioned as his script gets distorted beyond recognition, but instead, encouraged by Manny, he becomes a willing participant, embracing the insight he’s given into what makes a film work. You can almost feel the ghost of Sid Field saying ‘show this to kids who want to write a screenplay’ as the two act out a western-style bar room shot out, and Manny explains how an expletive at the end of a sentence says so much more than one at the start.
Two hitmen are added into the mix after His Bigness decides Ralph and Manny cannot be trusted to finish the script without additional supervision, and gradually the play moves from being a pastiche of Hollywood to a metaphorical account of a writer’s battle with his creation as characters he’s invented try to take the story in directions he never thought it should go. It’s still sharply observed, and it’s good to see it’s Manny struggling to preserve the integrity of the characters, but it does get dangerously close to self indulgence with one-too-many principled last-stands for comfort. Some trimming of the final scenes would have helped keep the play running at the same level of momentum rather than the slightly prolonged conclusion it instead has.
Not quite the brilliant piece it could have been, but still a hugely entertaining, well-observed, intelligent, and funny script, brought to life by four actors who look like they’ve enjoyed performing it as much as the audience have enjoyed watching it. Definitely worth seeing.