Though not a play in the strictest sense, this showcase of extracts from the Playwriting MA at Edinburgh University offers a compelling insight into the program, via the portfolio of selected students. Professional actors and a director collaborate on a rehearsed reading of a student’s work in progress and present the result as part of the festival. The resulting effect is understandably a little rough around the edges, yet it provides an insight into the creative process that audiences are often denied.

What the evening does provide is a glimpse of exciting future work in its infancy.

On the night I attend, the astutely chosen plays show great variation in style and content: one, a farce about an ageing pantomime dame who longs to play Cymbeline rather than Cinderella, while the other details a suicide prevention mission undertaken by a murderer in a women’s prison. As the director of the program quips during the interval between the two plays, ‘And now for something completely different!’ Never have truer words been said.

There are no costumes or lighting effects, the set is limited to a table and a few chairs and all the actors carry scripts, so questioning the artistic or character decisions for both plays is unfair. What the evening does provide is a glimpse of exciting future work in its infancy, an opportunity for collaboration between professional actors, industry professionals and emerging student playwrights.

Charlotte Laidig’s Dame is a madcap caper through the absurd world of pantomime, featuring clueless agents, aggrieved pantomime horses, divas and downtrodden Drama students. Laidig’s writing has a light, assured touch and the comedy sequences show a lot of promise. Jacqueline Crichton’s Numb had the difficult task of following fluffy comedy with a gritty social drama about one prisoner’s desperate attempts to provide a listening service to suicidal inmates. Maureen seems to show no remorse for her crime, yet the warmth and empathy she shows towards the other female prisoners complicate any opinion we may have on her morality. Maureen’s complicated relationships with her troubled roommate Hannah and prisoner officer Howard are sensitively explored, Crichton refusing to pass judgment on the innocence or guilt of any of the trio.

Pre:View provides an intriguing peek behind the stage curtain at the playwriting process, that in turn cultivates the work of graduating students.

Reviews by Laura Francis

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The Blurb

Four readings; four new plays; four emerging and established playwrights from Scotland, England, Wales and South Africa. Level by level, a woman games designer plays the game of her life against the trolls who torment her in the virtual world. In a bear pit, six chosen victims are forced to fight to the death. Serving out her sentence, a female lifer battles for the other women around her to choose life. A clown takes a deep breath and steps onto the stage in one of Shakespeare’s most challenging roles. Performed as script-in-hand readings by an ensemble of professional actors.

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