In a departure from its usual format,
four plays are performed by four actors on an endlessly adaptable set ingeniously designed by Carla Goodman.
On this occasion, four plays are performed by four actors on an endlessly adaptable set ingeniously designed by Carla Goodman. The backdrop has just a touch of the dystopian, with parts that can be pulled out to reveal storage spaces, tables, even people. Minor transformations give the space a completely different tone while allowing for speedy transitions between plays.
The plays themselves are of extremely high quality. Anders Lustgarten’s The Finger of God is a straight-up political satire and is perhaps the most accomplished piece of the four, superficially telling the story of the national lottery company’s attempts to make their competition more popular with the public, but really a sophisticated, sharp-edged play that says a great deal about the psychology of poverty and corporations’ exploitation of it. Conor MacNeill particularly shines as the lottery player, bringing a dignity to a role that insists you take him, and by extension the play, seriously. Ruth Gibson also deserves particular mention, playing the lottery owner with sufficiently nasty gravitas that she holds her scenes squarely in the realm of satire rather than send-up.
Clara Brennan's PACHAMAMA uses surrealist dialogue and metaphor to explore, among other things, our relationship with our planet. At times, it is very successful, particularly towards the end when the metaphor becomes a shade more explicit. Unfortunately, it is occasionally guilty of allowing the pleasure of the form to take precedence over clear communication. It is a real ensemble piece and presumably quite demanding, as the actors must frequently shift tone and mood entirely between lines, but they manage it admirably.
Inua Ellams’ Reset Everything blends quiet human stories about loss with a discussion of the way the political impacts on our daily lives in a play which is, at its simplest level, about a man who must let out his spare room in order to avoid paying the bedroom tax. When it stays true to this story, it works well; however, its forays into more symbolic and surreal territory are in danger of confusing the issue.
Finally, Vivienne Franzmann’s The Most Horrific is simply excellent. Its descent from theatricality into naked empathy is extremely moving and beautifully executed, especially by Faith Alabi as the speaker. Her character is very much a vehicle for the words she speaks without much in the way of distinct personality, so instead of making us feel for her, Alabi makes us feel with her. In her hands, we are dragged into feeling sympathy for the people our media mostly ignores, and a certain amount of shame that we have been sucked into expending our energy on the media circus instead.