Mission Abort written by Therese Ramstedt and directed by Claire Stone
Crossrail written by Philippa Mannion and directed by Jodie Botha
Just One More Time written by Guleraana Mir and directed by Mingyu Lin
A Fallen Cigarette Butt written by Stefanie-May Hammoudeh
The End of Term Show written by Olu Alakija and directed by John Fricker
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
All 19 plays in the One Festival at the Space Theatre in London’s Isle of Dogs have now been performed for the first time. These one-act, one-actor plays have been curated into four separate programmes with Programme D premiering on Friday night. Now all programmes will play in rep until the 27th January. It’s also the final year of the Festival, so catch it while you can.
Mission Abort opens Programme D, and while the title may suggest an interstellar story, this play is about a woman’s decision to have an abortion, after her boyfriend announces that he won’t stick around if she keeps the baby. It begins with performer Therese Ramstedt lying on a hospital stretcher on her back with her legs splayed in the air. It’s a gripping introduction to Ramstedt’s character and her description of the abortion taking place is graphic, but important. As the unnamed character says, one in three women are thought to have an abortion but no-one talks about it. During the process, even with the support the abortion clinic provides, she feels lonely and guilty, even though she knows that she has made the right decision.
Flashing forward and back in time, this 45-minute play explores material that must be familiar to many women, and Ramstedt is open and honest about the abortion process. With some humour and some funny audience participation, the play never becomes too dark or too maudlin. While supported with a backing track of songs and recorded voices, Ramstedt is at her most vulnerable when she sings. Whether these are elegies to the baby she never had or hymns to her broken self, we are never quite sure, but there is passion and stillness here that makes these songs incredibly moving.
Stillness is also seen in two other plays, Just One More Time and A Fallen Cigarette Butt. In the first, performer Minhee Yeo berates her dance partner for not trying hard enough. Her fury brings tears to her partner’s eyes. But when the apology comes, other emotions are unexpectedly revealed. In A Fallen Cigarette Butt, performer Stefanie-May Hammoudeh sits voyeuristically watching the comings and goings on a street. She goes nowhere, but she is infused with homesickness and, paradoxically, a desire for the new. Both performers in these plays are graceful and poised, but the pieces are more like vignettes: they are short, and are over in a heartbeat.
Crossrail has more meat on its bones, and tells the story of an American civil engineer who comes to London to work on the Crossrail project after her husband dies. Played by Karen Ascoe, the engineer is proud of her contribution to the new tube line, the Elizabeth Line, which was tunnelled under London only centimetres way from other underground tunnels. This new tube line, which cuts right across the capital, brings the two sides of London closer together, and while the Crossrail project may almost be over, our engineer is still making plans to keep the disparate parts of her life similarly closer together. It’s brave transatlantic writing by Philippa Mannion, and ably performed by Ascoe.
The night’s performances finish with a very funny story about a boy who is accused of killing Christmas. The End of Term Show is short and sweet, and allows performer Anthony Cozens to demonstrate his perfect comedic skills. Its humour is something of a shock after the seriousness of the previous plays, but five very different performances in just over two hours makes for a satisfying evening.
Runs in rep until 27 January 2018 | Image: Contributed