Writers: Fleur Nixon, Lydia Brickland, Jack Young, Miles Kinsley, Nic O’Keeffe, Susannah Ronnie, Lizzie Lovejoy and Jenni Winter
Co-Directors: Bex Bowsher and Graeme Thompson
Your Future Cabaret Show begins the evening. “Welcome, come and join the fun” sings Jenni Winter joyfully, who performs her own compositions in between some pieces, acting somewhat as compere with shades of Victoria Woods. Eight North East writers were picked from numerous applications to Your Voice Your Future: North East, to have their work presented in their Live Theatre debut.
First up is Labels by Fleur Nixon. An unnamed character (Hannah Wood) recounts her experience on a delayed metro. The monologue is largely a vehicle for revealing certain prejudices in society, voiced mainly by an older passenger, but appearances can be deceptive. It is obviously in the North as southern passengers never speak on the tube, especially to each other, so some theatrical licence is taken.
Following this, Frubes, Crème Eggs and Massive Slags by Lydia Brickland. Three schoolgirls, Trix (Chloe Jane Millar), Sally (Beth Clarke) and Chelsea (Tommi Vicky), meet and chat about their life, growing up and dealing with adolescence. A humorous piece, Brickland’s playful style is even seen in the title. Maybe the fact all three ‘schoolgirls’ had beautifully painted nails was due to the fact there is a section talking about nails?
In Tenure by Jack Young a newly elected PM (Gareth Richardson) is at question time, promising positive change. MP for Basildon (Anthony Wallace) and Becky Clayburn, interject with questions from the floor. The second half reveals how hidden events can usurp the best intentions. However Young’s writing evolves – he is well equipped to write speeches, his format better than many actual MP’s.
Next up is The Southern Side of The Wall by Miles Kinsley. Baz (Adam Donaldson) and Sal (Simmie Kaur), on duty, guard ‘a wall’. Their dialogue is something of a comedy duo act, Baz the straight man, with Sal delivering the punch lines. The very natural humour, while amusing contains many pertinent issues to the original brief, Your Voice Your Future: North East, being entertaining and thought provoking. Some time elapses before where they are and what the situation is become evident.
In Wyrm by Nic O’Keeffe, Lucy (Catherine Dryden) moves back to her hometown, Sunderland, but where is ‘home’ really? Lucy describes the events and reasons for her return, in this lyrical almost poetical piece, “flaky pastry pasty apocalypse” describing Sunderland. The mythical wyrm invades her life and mind as she struggles to come to terms with her situation. O’Keeffe has a talent for humorous comment which could possibly be used more.
In On The Edge by Susannah Ronnie, Jac (Eleanor Grainger) literally and mentally sits on a cliff edge. Talking to an unconventional stranger, Hafan (Anthony Wallace), she unburdens her life, career and world environmental concerns. Intrigue is added by the lack of information regarding Hafan, but overall a synopsis of concerns that many emerging adults anywhere can have, not just in the North East.
Finally is Do You Know Who We Are? by Lizzie Lovejoy. Banner bearing Eva (Becky Clayburn) enters and makes a stand. Clayburn’s performance is energetic and powerful. While there is probably not meant to be, there is certainly no love and no joy in the piece. It is very pertinent that the protest takes place at the foot of Grey’s Monument. Charles Grey, a fearless champion of Civil and religious liberty, when PM passed the Great Reform Act extending the right to vote and his government enacted the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.
It is wonderful to know there is such a diverse range of fresh young North East talent; at least 12 of the 19 writers and actors are still in their twenties, some still training and others recently qualified, all being well appreciated by a supportive audience. Eight different pieces in 80 minutes, a lot to take in, some related to growing up, others politically orientated and a couple expressing opinions on society. The single image on the back screen instantly establishes location for the pieces and the basic staging works well.
While The Future in the main belongs to the young, it is disappointing that older members of society are not represented, except as a bigoted passenger, for many now live nearly a century. Some actors lack clarity and projection, making it necessary to strain to hear the text, which may be due to lack of experience. The brief is not always evident in the pieces, some could occur in any part of the country, some are concerns about the future which is not necessarily in the North East, in some politics take over the entire piece, more humanitarian concerns are lacking. The Southern Side of the Wall in the main covers all three points, two people’s voices in the North East expressing their views on the future, in the future and in an entertaining, engaging, thought provoking way.
It is not always easy to balance such a varied programme and while theatre is many things, escapist, entertaining, challenging, ending the evening with such an aggressive onslaught of hate and resentment negates much of what went before. Often the more one shouts the less one is heard. Winter comes to the rescue playing, singing and ending the show. Any performance that begins and ends with joyful music is hard to beat.
Runs until 18th September 2022.