Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Happy Birthday Theatre West

I knew it had been a while since I had last posted on the blog, but I didn’t realise just how long it had been until I actually checked the date. June? June? Surely not...

In my head it doesn’t seem that long because I have been planning pieces and starting to write them in the intervening period, but have had to abandon them as events have taken over my time.

The last couple of months have been incredibly busy and I have had the opportunity to work on some really interesting and unusual pieces with some brilliant people, including Consulting with Chekhov at the Alma Tavern and Trading Local with Show of Strength. I am currently rehearsing a new play called Serendip at The Bikeshed Theatre in Exeter, so my ‘spare’ time is limited, but over the coming weeks, I plan to write about the production whenever possible. This piece, however, is one I’ve been planning to write for the last month, about the current Theatre West season.

Front cover of the 2010 brochure 

This season marks the 20th birthday of Theatre West and Co-Artistic Directors Alison Comley & Ann Stiddard have programmed some really thought-provoking work from writers with very distinctive voices.

Children of Salt image Copyright Toby Farrow 2010

The season opened with the powerful Children of Salt by Edson Burton, directed by Amanda Horlock. It dealt with life after genocide and how you rebuild your life. Suspicion and guilt seeped through the play as the characters tried to hold onto the love they once shared. In the end you see that they have all been existing and not living as the psychological wounds continue to weep long after the physical wounds have healed.

A Laughing Matter image Copyright Toby Farrow 2010

Next up it was A Laughing Matter by Dom Rowe, directed by Ed Viney. It was darkly comic piece following a failing ‘suicide-mime’ artist and the inventor of canned laughter, as they go ‘on the run’. Full of cultural references and set in the desert somewhere in America, it was soon apparent that the people they were running from were insignificant and ultimately they were trying to out-run their past in order to escape their future.

Watching this one was particularly interesting as I had read an earlier version of the script, which had a completely different ending, so I wasn’t expecting it to end how and when it did end. At the time I felt the ending was positive and full of hope, but on reflection, I think this was influenced by my knowledge of the previous ending. The ending I watched was more open ended and although it still suggested hope, I think that for Audrey, the mime artist her future was far from certain.

Page from 2010 brochure

Pavement by Sharon Clark, directed by Emma Earle is the current production in the season and is described as a ‘fierce, funny and tender meditation on love, loss and broken engines’. Although I haven’t seen it yet, I’m really looking forward to it as I am familiar with Sharon’s previous work.

Page from 2010 brochure

The penultimate production will be the final part in Steve Hennessy’s Lullabies of Broadmoor series, Venus at Broadmoor, directed by Chris Loveless. Set in the infamous lunatic asylum, the story is based on the real-life ‘Chocolate Cream Poisoner’, Christiana Edmunds, the most notorious female patient at Broadmoor. Watch it and it will make you question your resistance to such enigmatic characters.

Page from 2010 brochure

As the programme points out, the season opened with a play about the effect of war on ordinary people and it closes in the same way. Rabbit Ears by Bruce Fellows is about women at home waiting for news of their men, soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. It will be directed by Theatre West’s very own Alison Comley and Bruce is the winner of their initiative with Southwest Scriptwriters. It sounds great, but unfortunately I won’t be able to see this one as I will be performing in Exeter.

Ann and Alison outside The Alma Tavern

I think Ann and Alison are amazing – the sheer amount of time they dedicate to sourcing and supporting new work is admirable and Theatre West is a fantastic asset to our region. We all know that the government and Arts Council cuts are coming, but I really hope that Theatre West weathers the storm. With Ann and Alison at the helm I have every faith it will be here to celebrate its 21st birthday and beyond.

Happy Birthday Theatre West!

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