From east of England to west end of London INK, Suffolk’s arts festival of new writing, has spun its magic all the way from The Cut Theatre in Halesworth to the Tristram Bates theatre in London and it happily leaves a mark of distinction upon the London theatre scene.
From a sell out Easter-time festival in East Anglia, the best new theatre writing of The INK 2019 Festival is presented by directors, Julia Sowerbutts and Jane Zarins along with James Christopher. This talented company deliver slick performances that are comic and touching yet bold and provocative capturing the power and immediacy of the one-act play. Rather like short story writing, INK explores the theatrical equivalent where small still packs a punch and is perfectly formed. The genre immediately engages us, drawing us in to glimpse a world of characters and situations that entertain and challenges us to see things differently and with this versatile company of actors INK explodes with creativity on to the London stage.
These short plays are goal-posted with scenes with song and laughs that poignantly amuse – from the put-upon actress trying to complete a rendition of Another Suitcase in Another Hall (a play by Richard Curtis) to Mixed Up by James McDermott that explores love, attraction and identity through shared playlists. Amber Muldoon and Will Howard excel in these contrasting plays. Scarlett Curtis wrote the humorous, Wellington. Wit and banter between three generations of women watching a Royal wedding allowed us to see how activism can be a family affair.
Anne Bryson, in Invisible Irene (by Jackie Carreira), creates a light-hearted mood with her delightfully engaging performance of a menopausal older woman, ‘full of wisdom but ignored and undervalued’. She romps through the play with touching verve capturing our hearts and attention as she views the contraction of her life (but not her waist) however, it is a sunny performance that seems to ultimately offer something positive. A more physical style of theatre is presented with a lively short play (by Ed Jones Ping Pong – who would have thought table tennis could have such traction as the competing corporate young guns challenge each other over the table?
Martha Loader’s new play, After Prospero examines a turbulent sibling relationship, as a returning sister learns things are not what they seem; nostalgia distorts perspective and it subsequently throws up an emotional tempest between the quarrelling sisters, where connections need to be re-established. A sobering, contemplative piece that resonates a message for our times, ‘isolation costs us our humanity’. Contrasting in style was a light-hearted new play by Shaun Kitchener, That’s Great – and it really is! A smart, funny original contemporary comedy that touchingly entertains as it examines the pitfalls of unrequited attraction, Ed Jones’ detailed comic performance is a delight.
INK have presented a kaleidoscope of drama and judging from the busy audiences their diverse presentations are clearly a hit, not only on tour but on London stage as well – welcome to the resurgence of the one-act play!
INK Festival present FEAST FROM THE EAST a collection of short plays at the Tristan Bates Theatre from 7- 18 May 2019
Paul Hegarty | Image: Contributed