Four by Four is in fact, two by two: four plays have been paired up and alternated on the four days they are scheduled. The writers are MA Playwriting students at the Kingston University London. The cast of Kingston University Drama students are shared between the two plays. My selection was B.I.B by Graham Follett and Sew It Out Load by Imelda Topping.
B.I.B stands for Boy in Box, which Jennie has in her living room on her birthday. Her best friend Wendy tries to understand why, as does Wendy’s Aussie lodger who has tagged along to the party. Jennie explains the boy Logan is part of an artificial intelligence program for which she is a tester. She volunteered so she could have some company now her best friend is married. This slightly cliché plot of the only single girl around is saved by the actress who portrays Jennie bringing a reality to the subject of loneliness.
Still, strangely, in the middle of chaos when the batty mother has bowled up, the tableau freezes and Jennie has a monologue about what we made up from the previous scene: she’s a little lonely, tried B.I.B and this is not a great idea. Once the scene unfreezes, she repeats this message to Logan. Again. End scene
In ‘Sew It Out Loud’ Nina and Alice meet their new flatmate Lexie over afternoon tea. Lexie has just joined the Women’s Institute and tries to convince her new housemates to enrol as ‘craftivists’. ‘Craftivists’ use arts and craft to protest. Lexie thinks her new friends are perfect and she has even invited a woman from the WI to show them a special quilt. The girls need some convincing and sceptical Nina exposes loud Lexie as an insecure thing who is still deciding where she stands on world problems. Nina counters that she works in law and Alice as a teacher who volunteers for meals on wheels, so they aren’t ignorant about charity.
This would be enough of a point, but no: we discover that the quilt is a protest against FGM, female genital mutilation. Excuse me? Yes, near the end of the play this gets flung across the table. Coincidentally, Alice has a potential case of FGM in her class and it’s implied that Nina is helping her with it. It’s all too contrived, as the girls suddenly all become friends for this common cause. FGM is too serious a cause to mention as a sideline and the play’s title too, seems incredibly inappropriate.
As a snapshot of talent from Kingston, these young writers show promise but a little more judgement (and material) is needed here.