Untold Stories has produced its latest festival of new writing work for the Pleasance Theatre and it’s an absolute treat. Eight short pieces explore politics, football, employment law, immigration, memory, London, dating, and Cornwall. On occasions, more than one of these features in a single play. What we’re left with is a varied range of new work, testing its willing audience to find moments of humour, hope and poignancy, as we’re told some of the untold stories that affect people that we perhaps don’t notice in our day-to-day lives.
Jeff Stolzer’s Miss Irrelevant sees a meeting between two apparent strangers very quickly spiral into a confrontation between a woman and the man who once sexually assaulted her. He’s now running for Senate and trying to encourage the audience to vote for him. The two characters are individually fleshed out, with actors Kingsley Amadi and Emma Zadow building and holding the tension whilst keeping focused eye contact across a table.
Next up is Rebecca Jones’ Stevie, compellingly performed by Evan Simmonds. Siar Kinak directs with nuance and symbolic simplicity: the red flowers that fall from Simmonds’s lap to his brother’s grave; the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” which gently transitions each section of the text, whilst Simmonds circles the stage in his wheelchair. Jones’ script is complete with dreams and ambition, whilst Simmonds suggests on more than one occasion that he won’t live long enough for his dreams to fully come true.
Tom Collinson’s Percy delves into the conflict of employment laws with the employee that’s been around far longer than any of the managers. There’s a really strong contrast between Mike Hayley’s Percy and Henry Gilbert’s store manager Malcolm, and something quite fascinating about laws that have been created for purposes of compassion for employees that have no compassion for their staff.
I’ll be Along D’reckly by Mark Lindow investigates how things have changed for the young men in Cornwall, through the character of Grandpa Tony, played by Silas Hawkins. It uses the generation gap to explore the feelings around compulsory national service during the war years compared to optional service for young men now.
The second half of the evening begins with Zadow’s Hamotzi, as Rochalle recalls a childhood memory of going to the marketplace to buy tobacco for her father. Elizabeth Schenk performs a captivating piece of storytelling, taking on the physicalities of the various characters she refers to, whilst Zadow’s script makes use of all the senses to paint the picture of this story, as she sees the dancing steam and tastes the smells of honey and sesame.
Shobu Kapoor’s Simply Siblings follows. The humour doesn’t always quite land, and it feels like an essential ingredient is missing at the centre of this sibling drama, but convincing performances are delivered by Gary Pillai and Sakuntala Ramanee, the latter of whom is particularly emotive as she stands on stage in slowly erupting tears at the closing moment.
Kirsty Osmon’s spoken word piece, The System, is no doubt the most compelling of the evening’s performances, as both her writing and performance excel. She had a love for school as a child, but never really had the chance for a proper childhood. She speaks with the sort of poetry that stabs you in the chest, and there’s something touchingly tragic in her eyes. As she speaks of the “mould growing up the sides of my aspirations” whilst battling with her understanding of the heavens and fate, we’re practically torn to pieces with her, and nothing feels like a harder hit than when she powerfully thumps her chest with three beats. It is a truly outstanding performance.
The evening finishes with The Edge of You by Rebecca Robin, an exploration of the ‘perfect couple’ from the inside out, as Hannah Parker and James Ryan Wilson play our central couple, whilst Natalie Pailing and Charlie Clee play their inner minds and speak out the thoughts that lurk beneath the awkwardness and hardships of dating. The script is full of quick wit, although the style at times feels like it’s slightly restrictive to the story, which doesn’t quite take us on the emotional journey of the relationship that I wholeheartedly believe it has the potential to do. As the bodies of the minds come together in touch, we’re given a visual representation, through movement, of what falling in love might look like for the insides of our heads.
A fabulous evening of performances, with a whole bunch of rising talent across this
wonderful pool of directors, writers and actors.
Untold Stories played at the Pleasance Theatre until 11 November 2018. For more information, click here.