It had been a trying week for theatre to be honest, with some of the biggest shows opening in the city leaving MADEUP rather cold. A little inspiration was needed – enter up-and-coming writers collective Writers LABB, and the second of their regular showcases of new short plays.
The group is largely comprised of former members of the Everyman’s Young Writers programme, with the evening’s works – bound by a cheeky festish theme – curated by Ruth Hartnoll. Their nights take place in the basement of House on Bold Street, a cosy and useful little space – like 81 Renshaw gone a little WAG.
What was different about this was that for a new writing night, it really had a sense of fun and style. The four writers approached the theme in a rather complementary variety of ways, and, keeping things suitably fetishistic, each act opened with a burlesque dancer. There was quite a party atmosphere, further enhanced by the two stars of the first piece wandering around in full drag (and free wine if you got there early enough).
Queen Dream, by Gemma Curtis and directed by Tom Wilson, was a fun opener, a tale of backstage bitching and drag hierarchy. With Joel Whitall as head act Lady Cha Cha and Cameron McKendrick (pictured) as the new girl on the block, what it may have lacked in femme realness, it made up for in chutzpah and a warm, funny tale (plus, any play that takes time out for a little RuPaul worship scores points here).
Ka Pow, a monologue performed by Emily Spowage, was an energetic and entertaining glimpse into a world of real-life superheroes told through the adventures of the self-styled ‘Green Dragon’. Writer Matt Gabrielli turned the concept of the have-a-go-hero/ comic book nerd on its head in a smart and funny way that gave this piece unexpected depth.
Similarly, Charlie Lindgren’s Don’t Ask played with the scenario of asking a reluctant partner to explore a kink – with the male being the one reluctant to try something new. Performed by Sam Stone and Maggie Quinlan, it was convincing and solid, but perhaps a tad too short – to the extent that the reveal, quite a sweet and funny little denouement, was so subtle it was almost lost.
At no risk of that was the finale, Sarah Tarbit’s Take it Like a Man – that almost fit the theme by way of its deliciously sadistic, tongue-teasing prose alone. David J Bradley played a young man recalling a childhood spent in hospital as the roots of an extreme S&M fetish – living a life threatened to be cut short to its fullest by pursuing physical extremes. Bradley performed a fiendish text with relish for just the right end result.
All in all Fetish was fresh, funny and entertaining, and with this kind of informal, almost cabaret-style format Writers LABB could be really on to something.