In a time such as lockdown, oppressed voices in the industry, like those of women, have the potential to be neglected even more. That is why projects like the Light On Showcase are so vital with their emphasis on showcasing female-lead production pieces. With five 1-10 minute episodes thus far, Light On Showcase is a great theatrical tool in giving female writers the voice they truly deserve.
Episode 1: The Competition – ***
A short duo performance, The Competition by Caley Powell, follows Jayne and Chris who are victims of having their ‘perfect wedding plans’ ruined by the national coronavirus-fueled lockdown. Instead, the couple have entered a marriage competition to help brighten their moods during isolation. The natural conversational dialogue allows this piece to flow with a relaxed and inviting rhythm. In addition, the dialogue provides a great insight into the mindset of a lockdown victim who tries their hardest to stay optimistic. Unfortunately, the writing does not thrive beyond the conversational dialogue. While Jayne, a typical ‘Bridezilla’, is written with great detail – the writing tends to fall into stereotypes along the way which is only intensified by the lack of character development of Chris’s character. From the start, Chris is presented as a boyfriend who is undoubtedly against entering this competition and is very reluctant to film the couple’s entry video. However, this premise for his character was not developed and thus fell short of its clear comedic potential. Luckily, the chemistry between actors Alex Bull and Alex Middleton was palpable and allowed for the piece to be an enjoyable and light-hearted watch.
Episode 2: Carnivore – **
Directed by Samara Gannon, Carnivore is the second instalment of Light On in the form of a short monologue where Myra tells a comedic, awkward first-date anecdote. Writer, Vivian C Lermond constructs this piece with great hints of comedy and sincerity. The viewer can feel the awkwardness of Myra’s situation as great consideration has been given to the detail which allows the writing to thrive on its own. In this way, Carnivore would be a great audition speech or monologue for drama school auditions or castings for young women. However, where this version of Carnivore falls short is with actress Emilie Maybank’s performance. While it is clear to see she has put tremendous effort into her performance, this same effort is what stunts her acting. Maybank’s performance is too considered for her ‘story-time’ to appear natural which also created a stagnant rhythm throughout. Sometimes, with a personal anecdote, it is better to play with the text rather than to consider every word you are saying, as you may with a classical monologue. While Myra as a character has great comedic potential, Maybank just falls short in driving it home.
Episode 3: Lots of Minnows – ****
While Emilie Maybank may not have fulfilled her true potential as an actor in the previous episode of the Light on Showcase, she certainly does thrive as a writer in episode 3: Lots of Minnows. This duologue is filled with gorgeous acting and palpable dialogue making it a pleasure to watch. While the plot, an investigation of a fake dating app account in Dani’s name, may seem surface-level, the piece sends a great message to its viewers, making it something all young adults should try watch and learn from. At its base-level, Joe arrives home to find his girlfriend Dani has found a dating app account made in her name. Obviously, the couple decides to investigate it and while this investigation is layered with great chemistry from both actors and gorgeous comedic writing, underneath, it is a sensitive commentary on the toxic nature of 21st century dating or hookup culture. This is seen at its best through the couple’s discovery of unsolicited nude photos that have been sent to this account. Boyfriend, Joe, is shocked and horrified while Dani replies with a simple, “welcome to our world” – shedding a light of the toxic rape culture that floods our society. It is this intricate commentary that allows Lots of Minnows to shine a light which is only brightened by wonderful acting and writing skills from all involved.
Episode 4: The White Hart – ****
The White Hart is a story of struggle, hope, even more struggle and then hope which provides a sensitive and sincere insight into the mind of a key worker during lockdown. This monologue, performed by Jodyanne Richardson, fills the viewer with the utmost appreciation for such workers who keep our society afloat during these turbulent times. Hannah, a van driver, begins with simple explanations of her job, her life in lockdown and her familial interactions. She then invites the viewer into a rare experience she had that managed to instill a wonderful sense of optimism within her during a dire time. By the end of it, not only was I deeply emotional but I felt as though I had travelled Hannah’s journey with her. This achievement can be accredited to Judy Upton’s personable writing which is more like a letter than a performance piece and Richardson’s stellar performance. Simply put, The White Hart is a must watch and is the epitome of the type of work that should be produced during lockdown.
Episode 5: I Digitally Do – *
While it is always encouraging to see a piece of theatre with both female and LGBTQ+ representation, such presences are not enough to carry a piece – as was possibly assumed with episode 5’s I Digitally Do. Couple Rachel and Nora have recently married and are trying to find a way to explain it to Rachel’s family. While the concept may have had potential, this piece finds itself without any significant intention and thus is registered clumsy by the closing lines. While there are some quirks to Emilie Maybank’s writing, it lacks a sense of drive and development. Unfortunately, the performances of Saba Nikoufekr and Josie Sedgwick-Davies don’t elevate the writing enough to make it an impactful performance piece. Sedgwick-Davies doesn’t quite manage to sustain a thought process for her character and thus sounds like she is reading a script rather than performing. On a positive note, Nifoufekr is an actress that has a lovely sense of sensitivity making some moments a pleasure to watch. While currently I Digitally Do falls short, with some focus on character development and rounded performances, the piece has great potential!
The Light On Showcase is now streaming on YouTube. For more information, visit the Lights Down Productions website.