Drift Theatre, a kind of talent incubator formed in 2016 by Laura Jane Ayres, Jess McKenna, Emma Wilkinson and Laura Sedgwick, certainly seems to have had a successful year. Having hosted a series of showcases in their bi-monthly scratch night ‘Drift Shop’, they rounded off the year with a highlights reel in the intimate environs of Kennington’s White Bear Theatre.
Drift Shop Highlights: A Christmas Review consists of five shorts, each, ostensibly at least, very different in tone and content. First up is Waco Monologues, a meandering, understated piece that initially seems to bring little to the conversation about cults and the power they hold over their members, but leaves a slowly burning, horrific implication after it. Emily Dance’s performance here, while seemingly a little muted, is perfectly suited to the piece’s conceit.
It is followed by A Kiss from Back Home which, despite a few moments of overblown lyricism, was a disarmingly direct treatment of various taboos around sexuality, gender and age. Harvey Bassett’s charged physical performance lifted what could have been an overly earnest and sentimental vignette into something altogether more affecting and real.
Summertime and Unpossibiliting are both duologues between couples. The former a light-hearted take on the gulf between two people in a relationship, and the latter, a kind of comedy of manners on the absurdity of Englishness. While Summertime was based around a neat conceit – a couple’s interior monologues performed simultaneously, constantly looping and twisting around each other – and was dizzyingly tight in its execution, it perhaps didn’t work so well in such a small space. Often half of the dialogue was inaudible, which lessened both the dramatic and the comedic impact.
Unpossibiliting was perhaps the most accomplished of the lot. Containing pointed, but not laboured, observations on the English’s unique view on class, money, parenthood, friendship, love, and jealousy. It was certainly the funniest and achieved a rare blend of wit, easy repartee, and shrewd insight. The final act, End of Term Show, was equally as funny. But Akshay Sharan’s depiction of a hapless teacher reliving a memory from his school days, while physically excellent and engaged throughout, felt a bit like a set from a run of the mill stand-up comic – diverting for a while, but ultimately inconsequential.
The show’s distinguishing feature is the variety of the acts, but I couldn’t help feeling that despite their stylistic and thematic disparity, there was an underlying homogeneity. Perhaps because the company is still in its infancy, the whole endeavour felt a little exclusive. As if the actors were performing, salon-style, to a group of their peers from whom they knew they would receive no opprobrium. Nevertheless, this show demonstrated the not considerable talents of young writers, directors and actors. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do in 2017.
Stay up to date with Drift Theatre and its scratch nights, which will be returning on 28 February 2017 in Shoreditch. More information here.
Photo by Greg Clements