DramaLondonReview

One Million Tiny Plays About Britain – Jermyn Street Theatre, London

Writer: Craig Taylor

Director: Laura Keefe

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Craig Taylor’s short vignettes of modern life first appeared as a column in The Guardian, and were later collected into a book. In 2016, director Laura Keefe selected several of the published sketches and created an evening of entertainment for the Watermill Theatre in Newbury.

Reviving that same work at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London, Keefe reunites with Watermill performers Emma Barclay and Alec Nicholls, who proceed to blast through an enormous range of different characters, shedding and assuming new personas as quickly as they remove one of the many articles of clothing each is wearing.

Both Barclay and Nicholls are able to switch between moments of profound depth and utter idiocy on a sixpence. Moments of surreal silliness as cloakroom attendants scoff sweets snaffled from customers’ pockets rub shoulders with the bitter poignancy of a couple splitting up over a bottle of wine; one-sided phone calls the reveal so much about the relationship with the voice at the other end butt against conversations at a hospital bedside where no-one is listening.

The result is a kind of bittersweet sketch show, albeit one where individual scenes rarely get tied up with a comedic punchline. Unfortunately, the connective tissue between each scene frequently misjudges the mood, relying on a jaunty, jazzy bossanova which often tramples over the end of the preceding scene, not allowing the audience to sufficiently reflect.

The overarching insistence on comedy seeps through into the introductions to each piece – one liner descriptions taken from Taylor’s book, usually indicating where in the country the following scene takes place. Unfortunately the voiceovers are also accompanied by “humorous” asides, many of which seem to condescend to locations outside the Home Counties in a manner ill befitting a series of plays designed to present a unified vision of the modern British experience.

Said humour works far better in a post-interval bingo session hosted by the actors which certainly enlivens proceedings. But the overall impression is of a collection of scenes that, while running the full gamut of emotions, are viewed through a highly restricted lens.

Runs until 5 January 2020. | Image: 

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