One of the joys of fringe theatre is occasionally stumbling across a little gem that no one else yet knows about. I like feeling confident that in a few years time you can smugly boast ‘Oh yes, I saw their first performance years ago in a little warehouse just off brick lane’ in a manner akin to those who claim to have liked the Arctic Monkeys ‘before they went all mainstream’. And, as bank holiday luck would have it, this is exactly what happened to me last Sunday.
This was Press Play Theatre’s debut performance, a collection of three short examples of new writing entitled Random Stories About the End of Everything.
First up was a piece by David Mumeni rather intriguingly called A Date With History. It concerns an experience all of us will have gone through at some point – collecting our dreaded exam results. While the subject matter may not be groundbreaking, it is nice to see something so relatable played out. The relationship between teenage boys is something that may not appear to be all that complicated, but Mumeni explores the complexities behind the bravado. The actors are engaging, and have superb chemistry; while at times the direction suffered from a lack of movement the physicality between the actors was handled well.
Next up was Andrew Maddock’s Cause and Effect, a piece exploring female domestic violence. The topic was handled sensitively, and bland stereotypes were avoided. This is especially remarkable given that the play’s author is a man; too often a lack of understanding in this area can cloud and tarnish the narrative. While I found that the play’s protagonist could have at times played her character in a slightly more restrained way, the acting was ultimately compelling and I was impressed with their interpretation of the material. It didn’t provoke tears, but it certainly provoked thoughts.
Finally we were left with Man and Wife by rising star Kirstie Swain, which I found to be the evenings highlight. Taking a fresh look at the aftermath of what might be a break up (but is definitely a broken heart) the plot seems deliberately ambiguous: this could be anyone’s argument. George Kemp, playing the wounded party, shines and for me is the stand out actor from all three plays. He manages to capture the pain and anger required perfectly, and plays the victim without losing sympathy. The final plot twist is unexpected, and I left still mulling over what I’d seen.
While all three of these shows are clearly works by writers, directors and actors still honing their craft, I was still impressed. It’s not perfect, but then I’d be surprised if a company’s first public outing was. There is a great deal of promise to be found here, and I’m excited about seeing Press Play’s next offering. And to be honest, you all should be too.