Writers on the Brink is a new collective that has been working under the tutelage of industry specialists to hone half a dozen short scripts. The results received a rehearsed reading at the Lantern last week, in which a sell-out audience became part of the process by having the chance to scribble down their feedback in the breaks between performances.
The theatre was actively involved in the production as well as just providing the space, with their own Pete Mitchelson and Margaret Connell taking on director duties as well. The evening was a great collaboration proving the venue’s dedication to supporting and nurturing new talent – something it is seriously excelling at these days. Screenwriter Julian Perkins and literary agent Diane Culverhouse are behind the Arts Council and Lottery-funded initiative.
As a rehearsed reading/ script-in-hand type performance these pieces were only at an early stage of being road tested and this sometimes showed, but the atmosphere was positive and warm. Audience members asked in their questionnaire whether they would be interested in seeing them developed into full length work. So who knows where they will pop up again in future?
Midnight Picnic by Aless Castagni was a two hander (of sorts), a conversation in a funeral home punctuated with a message from beyond the grave. As Laura and Alan bicker over Jack’s corpse, emotions run high. But the dead man’s last requests are on a CD he wanted them both to hear… It was a nicely-written piece, enlivened by an able reading from Angie Waller and Jack Wright, but whether or not the convenient interruptions over the CD (the voice of Trevor Fleming) – were meant to be a shot of black comedy or just served as a hackneyed plot device wasn’t really clear.
Sweet Caramel Bliss by Geoff Woodbridge framed the story of the dying romance of two actors between fantasy scenes (MADEUP was a bit slow on the uptake on that one and didn’t quite figure this out until much later at home). Paislie Reid and Daniel Kenwright played the lovers at a crossroads in a ten minute work that seemed a tad clunky with exposition, but was ultimately quite poignant.
Break Up was a burst of lively comedy from Kate McCann that didn’t take itself too seriously. Carefree lad Ryan (David Sheehan) had enough of his long-suffering girlfriend Stella (Louise Garcia), and dumped her in the pub just in time to await the arrival of a new girl he’d met online. A wittily-observed battle of the sexes that raised hearty laughs from the audience, but whose characters seemed to only exist to get to their punchlines and a convenient ending.
Anne Irvine’s Chillymagma told the tale of two broke friends who took up an eating challenge in a bid to win themselves some much needed cash to prevent trouble with a local bully. A nice ear for naturalistic dialogue showed through in this short piece, which was warm and funny and has already been further developed for radio.
Catatonic by Alenka Lamare was an earnest drama about a doctor (David Sheehan) forced against his will to euthanise patients as research on behalf of a mysterious Big Pharma type, whose financial support is crucial to the hospital. Nurse Riley (Leanne Martin) seems sympathetic to his mounting stress, but might know more than she’s letting on. A conspiracy thriller, it had promise but the characters perhaps needed a bit more fleshing out to rack up the tension.
Finally, Phil Olsen’s The Chat Room was perhaps the most intriguing work of the night; a surreal, Lynch-lite short journey into an unusual town. How does Joy know Ike’s favourite dish, even though he’s never been in her cafe before? What caused the mysterious craters that Harlowe (TV actor David Lonsdale. best known for Heartbeat) is giggling about over his daily toastie? It was well-realised, funny, a little disorienting, and the pay off was satisfying.