Review: Word Play 4

Finding myself in the cold and concrete new Arcola building is beyond cool. I am anticipating that the product should be the same. ‘Revolution’ a relevant and raw topic, is the word of choice. Six 15-minute plays based on the theme, and not one goes near the issue of overthrowing government. Too sensitive? Or are the writers kicking themselves now?

Becky Prestwich kicks us off with King of the Castle. We learn of Callum’s uncontrollable temper and Lacey’s willingness to sacrifice her innocence in order to protect her little brother. Child’s play acts as escapism from their anticipation of the return of their father, they role play as kings, oracles and rebels, and plan their revolution. Lacey (Charlotte Worthing) is great to watch and childlike-ness comes naturally and without unnecessary exaggeration. A well-written and heartbreaking piece of theatre.

A slightly awkward and messier piece followed, with Daniel Smith’s Broken Windows. A political party employing graffiti artists to promote their ideas anonymously soon becomes a statement about Bobby’s role in society: he is 38, unemployed and still living at home with his mum. It doesn’t hit the same spot as Prestwich’s piece, but is definitely worthy of its 15 minute slot.

The Collectors by Jaki McCarrick begins slowly with Virgil, a kidnapper, waiting for Penelope’s husband to pay her ransom. She persuades him that her husband won’t pay, and after a twist at the end, my presumptions of the piece were blown away. A moving, shocking and powerful piece.

After a cold interval, wrapped in my scarf, frightened to leave the slightly body warmed studio, we find ourselves at the fairground: Siân Owen’s offering, The Turn, is a charming piece of writing. As Lewis is stuck on the Ferris wheel with his brother, planning to propose to his girlfriend, Helene (Natasha James), she is below questioning their relationship with a fortune teller. Joseph (Hasan Dixon) and Lewis (Simeon Perlin) make a great double-act, bouncing off each other superbly. This piece shines with originality.

David, written by Daniel Kanaber, sees ‘Man’ (James Rigby) recount his life as an English student, living in London with his friend and his dying mother. Witty writing means this tragic monologue is light and humorous and engages us in the trauma as we manage to glimpse through his tough exterior and become acquainted with the vulnerable man inside.

Katie McCullough ends the evening with her Let Them Eat Cake. Two couples are picnicking, discussing their relationships and what they love/hate about each other. With delightfully funny and inspired performances from Worthing and Dowd it is a memorable way to end a memorable evening.

The design by Stephanie Williams, and direction, from Box of Tricks’s Artistic Directors, Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder and Adam Quayle, were simple and perfectly suited to each play.

Although not ‘revolutionary’ theatre, and despite the cold and hyper-trendy venue, it is well worth catching should you manage it before the 5 March. This is exactly the type of showcasing of work that should be done more often.

Word Play 4 is at the Arcola Theatre until 5th March. For more information on Box Of Tricks, see their website here.