Writer: Craig Taylor
Director: Laura Keefe
Reviewer: David Jobson
Great Britain has been represented by playwrights and authors in a wide variety of ways down the ages. Some have been favourable, some scathing and some with a slight edge of disapproval. But rarely has it been presented based on our everyday verbatim conversations gathered over a few years.
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain is a collection of vignettes written by Craig Taylor for a column in The Guardian between 2006 and late 2008. Based on overheard conversations, this provides “a snapshot of life in the UK”.
Perhaps the title, One Million Tiny Plays About Britain can be viewed as a tad misleading. A bit obvious, but there are only 94 in the book and about a third of them are performed in this production; as a consequence, you only get a taste of the collection itself. Accordingly, any review of One Million Tiny Plays… will not be a fair representation of all Taylor’s work, and will be based on the pieces director Laura Keefe has chosen to include.
Overall, what the audience sees are snapshots of everyday life. Some of them are easy to relate to, some are not. Some of the jokes are repurposed at times, including one that has a youngster talking constantly on her mobile.
All of this is performed by only two actors, Emma Barclay and Alec Nicholls. They are a dextrous pair, jumping between different regional accents, ethnicities, ages, and gender. From a Polish lorry driver asking his mate to look beyond a model’s looks in a paper, to a couple of lads sitting in a McDonald’s talking about a recent suicide. From an elderly lady talking to a Ukrainian man handing out restaurant leaflets to a father at his son’s football match. The characters the pair perform are eclectic.
The vignette format, however, does become a little wearing as the show progresses. As a humorous show, there are a lot of hits and misses. There are some laugh-out-loud scenes as well as moments of poignancy. At other times, there are some flat scenes that get just smatterings of laughter. Also, since the plays are based on conversations from eight to 10 years ago, there is an underlying sense that this has become a period piece.
There are some relevant scenes that hint of what’s to come. From a GP in chaos to a care worker visiting a patient with dementia to a child persistently questioning her father about the CCTV camera; these are small moments that all resonate with the audience. Still, it doesn’t reflect how people’s attitudes have changed since then. If Craig Taylor had continued writing these plays, this show would have been very different.
Based on the plays performed here, One Million Tiny Plays About Britain will appeal to the Watermill Theatre’s audience and the town halls it’s visiting on its tour. A lightweight and quaint little production but nothing more.
Runs until 23 April 2016 |Image:Philip Tull