Sometimes a production doesn’t come together and it’s not for a lack of trying. It’s clear that the young cast and crew from Z Theatre Company have put time and effort into this work and should be acknowledged for that, but the script and performances just aren’t quite strong enough.
The ensemble generally work well together, and I enjoyed the choreographed synchronised movement sequence at the beginning of the play.
I found the concept all too familiar – a troubled young man, John, retreats into a fantasy world by writing movie scripts and finds himself a character in them. This story, or variations of it, seems a perennial favourite with writers but is more often than not the making of interesting theatre. I saw two productions of a similar concept at last year’s Fringe, so for this type of piece to work, it needs to find a new treatment of the material. In 18 Foot Story there is a twist in the circumstances in which our protagonist has found himself, how he got there, and how the play ends, but it’s not quite enough to make up for its weaknesses. Some of the dialogue is very sentimental without saying anything, and in place becomes quite cliché. In the play’s movie fantasy sequences, this level of cliché is perfectly acceptable and even quite amusing in several places, but this unfortunately carries over into the ‘reality’ scenes. We don’t get enough of a sense of John’s reality to understand what he’s escaping from. This contrast is important and a level of truth needs to come through to allow us to connect to the character and care about what happens to him. As a character, he often seems a passenger in his own life and could be given more agency.
There is some promise in the script if it were further developed, particularly in fleshing out the characters further. As a one act play, it is certainly well-structured. And there’s no doubting the effort put into the performance. The ensemble generally work well together, and I enjoyed the choreographed synchronised movement sequence at the beginning of the play. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to lift the show into something of quality.