Review: Three Unrelated Short Plays, Theatre N16

If you are looking for spiritual enlightenment from your cultural excursions then please do look a little further; Three Unrelated Short Plays is light hearted and fun, but not a lot else – not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that.

Written by James Messer, part of the Blank Tin Theatre Company, these three 20 minute sketches certainly keep you entertained. Advertised as ‘absurd’, the plays don’t disappoint on this front, but expect more of a ‘freak-show’ than Beckett. The opening piece, named ‘The Stuggardt Syndrome,’ depicts the predicament of two kidnaped people and their amateur kidnappers coming to terms with the fact that none of them knows the first thing about kidnapping.

This moves into the second piece ‘One Scotch’ in which three men try and have a spiritual experience, not through a pilgrimage or meditation, but through an extremely heavy drinking game. This is as farcical as it sounds. The jokes here are perhaps the most teeth-clenching, but the overall motions of the scene are developed well and the idea is amusing, with a beautiful rendition of some Joan Osborne. The audience is also forced to come to terms with a new existential question and a possible answer to the problem of theodicy – “What if God was a dick?”

The last skit, entitled ‘Dr Deathzo’, is certainly the most random part of the trio. An average-Joe named Kevin comes is confronted with the fact he turns into a super-villain on Saturdays, but, to his chagrin, he’s not a very good one. Meanwhile, Assorted Props Girl and her sidekick, Tape Boy, come to save the day. This play descends into a tongue-in-cheek elucidation on the importance of friendship and, it must be said, it is only a loosely funny one. Instead of ending on this slight droop, it might have been wiser to end on one of the slightly punchier first sketches as the ending doesn’t do justice to the rest of the piece.

The self-conscious scene changes must also be mentioned. Obviously, the staging of three totally different plays poses issues, especially in the limited space. This is managed very well, however, through amusing signage and ‘distracting’ spectacles. It could be argued these two moments were in fact the strongest part of the production.

All in all, Three Unrelated Short Plays is an amateur fringe production and it would be wise not to expect too much from it. Luckily, however, it is short enough to make it worth the time invested. It is genuinely funny in parts, but the humour can be broadly contained within the realms of self-mockery, caricatures, and physical comedy.

Three Unrelated Short Plays played at N16, Balham until February 16.