Debut Festival 2016

Debut Festival 2016 was filled with exciting new plays written, directed and performed by graduating students on the BA Acting & Contemporary Theatre (CT) course at East 15. We laughed, we cried, we thought – we drunk and we fell in love with theatre over and over again. The spirit that Uri Roodner (Head of Course) has created for the CT course and his vision was manifested across the plays through both writing and performance. We witnessed actors having fun, finding truth and exploring meaning.

We saw them all and here’s what we thought about them individually:

The Going Away Days

The Going Away Days was excellent. Hats off to Aidan Napier for directing this wonderful piece. It was entirely original writing, filled by engaging performances that touched on the immersive, and finished with old 90’s chants we loved. The ensemble work was excellent with creative use of the stage and props (designed by Fridtjof Brevig). The play presents and questions various male stereotypes, but also dwells on gender roles and gender equality. Aaron Dart wrote a fantastic play about men, football, family, loyalty and life choices. Bobby (played by Aaron) is presented with an ultimatum and must choose between his wife (a very strong performance by Rosina Williams) and his love of team and laddishery. His friend Adam (played by Joel Locke Foster who gave us a powerful and moving performance) is given a similar ultimatum by his sister Lucy (Monica Ferrero). Adam will encounter his father who abandoned them years ago, while the lads prepare for the next after-game fight, now that Ben (Ryan Lester), an old member of the team’s club, is back. I loved the relationship and the discourse between the women of the play, Holly and Meg (Adam’s girlfriend, played by Zoe Forrester), as it documented a different time of gender inequality that is still present today in parts of society. In times of great tension, when your father has come back to tell you your mother lied,  would you stay at home with your family? Or would you go back to the fight? Will the men change, or do they need their release?

Buzz: A New Musical

Angie is a young woman, convinced by her best friends Simon and Chrissy (Robyn Grant, who also wrote the musical) to finally masturbate using a vibrator through a series of events involving her boyfriend, Cleopatra, Venus, Aphrodite and an inflated sex doll on a vagina-filled set designed by Natalia Alvarez. It was loud, hilarious and absolutely in-your-face! With performances from Aidan Napier, Allie Munro, Robyn and Aaron Baker that were unforgettable. Very strong performances from Antonia Desplat (a founding member of Actoring) who was a fabulous and very strong Cleopatra, Ryan Lester, whose character suffered from premature ejaculation (I told you the musical was hilarious) and all the cast. Thank you for the music James Beck and congratulations to Taylor Danson for directing this exciting, new, promising work!

Dissonance

Few works of art can embrace you so fully. Dissonance is one of those plays that makes you think “I’m not alone.” Not alone in your worries, not alone in your fear of the future and the paranoia of this world. The play is a socio-political tragedy that deals with the aftermath of a worldwide attack on humanity, where “they” have silenced us. Has democracy failed us? Is globalisation the end of us? Or is it all paranoia? I can’t wait to see this work develop into a full-scale production. Isabella Javor has a very strong piece of work in her hands. Well done to Allie Munro for directing within the stage world designed by Nicole Graham. Elisabeth Fletcher and Ryan Lester gave very strong and moving performances along with poignant performances from Aaron Baker, Antonia Desplat and Victoria Lewis who all played citizens who have taken up arms and live underground to survive the unexplained destruction that is happening above until Isabella’s character, Magdalena, is found above.

Juice Straws Are Bleak

Marysa Finnie wrote a play that is spectacularly honest, and filled with friendship, innocent moments and ultimately disappointment. Beatrice Grannò delivered a most adorable performance of the Little Girl whilst Taylor Danson’s Timothy was a sweet, if not the sweetest, cute, delightful but also slap-worthy, where-are-your-manners, young boy who bullied her at every opportunity. Lynne Jefferies’ direction was very generous allowing the most farcical moments to make you want to piss yourself. Personally I struggled to hold myself. Such a funny play with silent and chant-along moments, the worst motivational speaker ever, played by Stefanie Reynolds and the most depressing teacher ever, played by Allie Munro. The versatile and colourful sets were designed by Esther Sobambi. An absurd, ridiculous, fabulous play, the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Whales Whales Whales!

One Way

Have you heard of the MARS ONE project? A handful of persons have been selected to supposedly create the first human colony on Mars. Roberta Bellekom must have, because her play very much asks the question “what happens when you trap people in a pod and give them the fate of humanity in their hands as they set off for space?” Now imagine hundreds of manned missions of 3 people to the unknown-known universe, one from each country with the responsibility of finding a new habitable galaxy and planet for the human race. Directed by Aaron Baker, Riley (Lynne Jefferies), Kobus (Adam Mort) and Elle (Roberta) are travelling through space in a one-room pod talking about the past, present and future of their lives and the human race. The titanic issues of global importance meets the seemingly unimportant of everyday life in the pod as we explore the chemistry between Riley and Elle in contrast with the introverted awkwardness of Elle. With a tragically strange end, the play leaves question marks to bring with you at home and wonder. There is live music throughout the show by Beatrice Granno & Dan Armstrong who also played TV presenters announcing the destruction of other pods that met terrible fates. I loved the symmetry and functionality of the set designed by Juilet Noble. The actors had space to deliver moments of attraction, company, loneliness, togetherness and allowed them to create the world of the pod, within a dark universe in a very enjoyable and fun play.

Big Mama

This incredibly funny, chaotic play, that was  shortlisted for the 2015 VBA playwright awards, follows the story of Terry, played by Aaron Dart, as he stumbles out of his apartment and goes on a quest to find a cigarette in a dystopian London where whole neighbourhoods are demolished for the sake of cleaning up the city.

With his story beautifully narrated by Aidan Napier, Terry finds his  way through London and gets involved with Alice (Lilly Burton), Mike (Dan Armstrong) and Old Bobby Bum (Joel Locke-Foster), and their fight against the infamous SSS, who will stop at nothing to clean London. The designer for Big Mama was Yoohnee Cho.

Through amazing writing and directing, Rosie Raven brings us a hilarious play with incredibly effective and well choreographed ensemble work, complemented by great performances from the company. 

Big Mama was reviewed by Eduardo Almeida.

Debut Duos

We saw two more, two-people plays on Saturday which we loved. Intimate, real and relevant.

Rabbit Heart; a Lovely Tragedy written by Lynne Jefferies and directed by Allie Munro starring Lynne and Taylor Danson.

Yokes Night written by Scott Lyons and directed by Lilly Burton starring Scott and Zoe Forrester.
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