Writers: Louis Gale/Katie Read/Hannah Rose-Lewis/ Ruby Shrimpton/Joseph Winder/ Rebecca Phythian
Directors: Berwyn Jones/ Lyle Fulton/Valeria di Pasquale/ Rebecca Phythian
Threedumb Theatre was founded in 2015 by Stephen Smith, Matthew Bromwich, and Duncan Riches, all graduates from the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). Apart from the enforced pause of 2020, they have put on an annual festival of short plays, showcasing the work of LIPA students and other new theatre makers. This year’s iteration is a programme of six new plays performed in one day, at the Space Theatre on the Isle of Dogs, East London.
The first piece, Permanent Tenancy, is a rehearsed reading by a six-actor ensemble. Written by one of the cast, Louis Gale and directed by another, Berwyn Jones, it also has input from the other cast members. While obviously a work in progress, it is lively and funny, and a good curtain raiser for the more finished pieces to follow.
Chicken Pasta is a two-hander highlighting the rising incidence of bowel cancer in people under thirty. It makes the dilemma real and telling, and there is some well-targeted interplay between Katie Hamilton and Jordan Lang, partners steering the emotional swings of despair and acceptance of the situation.
Hannah Rose-Lewis writes and performs a one-woman show, Ophelia, that deals with sexual abuse and boredom for young people in rural communities. It also effortlessly brings in folk legend and history, witchcraft and depression. It is a deftly written, deftly performed, and relevant piece, the pick of the day’s programme of plays, and deserves to be revisited, perhaps with a less token design; with twenty minutes or so to turn around the stage, the settings were of necessity basic.
Ruby Shrimpton’s one-woman tribute to the Eurovision Song Contest and the awesomeness of crocheted knitwear is funny, acute and wacky. Unstitching is made up of observational comedy from a self-styled courgette-eating, crochet-wearing girl who lip-synchs obsessively to Euro anthems. Possibly a better fit on a stand-up comedy bill, it is a dynamic and very entertaining piece, immaculately performed.
Joseph Winder’s playlet At Eternity’s Gate is a serious, indeed solemn, attempt to explore the grief and anger of Theo Van Gogh after Vincent’s suicide. It is well researched, worthy, and a little bit ponderous. Theo’s railing against God and Man and exploitative brothers goes on and on, and generates see-sawing emotions that are bravely attempted by the actor Joseph Winder but slightly undermined by the one-note writing of the author Joseph Winder.
The final piece, Pill, is an impassioned campaigning scream by Rebecca Phythian, with a little bit of very well-played, if modest, on-stage support from Adam Martyn. She lacerates the indifference of male-run society to the pain caused by hormonal contraceptives. It is heartfelt, urgent, and strident, makes its case powerfully, and raises lots of questions.
Threedumb Theatre has facilitated a lively showcase for a varied programme of work by talented young performers. The one-person shows by Ruby Shrimpton and by Hannah Rose-Lewis deserve longer runs in less restricted circumstances, and the campaigning vigour and relevance of Rebecca Phythian’s Pill earns it lots of credit. LIPA’s graduates are doing their institution proud.
Reviewed on 21 January 2023.