One thing I’m really loving about the Camden Fringe is the breadth of creativity and experimentation. Scenic Reality is a prime example of a fresh piece of new writing that explores different story telling techniques. While it has mixed success, there is a compelling sincerity in the performances of all 4 cast members that kept me engaged throughout the piece.
The non-chronological approach to storytelling can be hard work at times, as many of the flashbacks are short, which impacts the overall pacing and flow of the piece. It could well be that the ambition is to disorient the audience, but without a big, final revelation that challenged my preconceptions and made me rethink my understanding of the play, it felt like a level of complexity that didn’t fully pay off.
Despite the mental gymnastics there is much to love about this show and I’d happily recommend people go see it (it is on at the Hen and Chickens until 11th August, so you need to hustle). I enjoyed the fact there is a non-binary character in the piece and that is NOT the focus of the play. They were simply they, and the problems that radiated around them stemmed more from their refusal to compromise and blindly accept the status quo, even when their friends needed to. I will confess, I’m still unclear on what Damien did that was so bad they were cut off by their friends. Does this make it less about Damien’s influence and more about Janet’s? So many questions, and I do love a show I can’t stop chewing over.
The characters are beautifully written and brought to life, Damien, Janet, Lucy and George feel very real and you feel invested in their lives. And ultimately this is a show about young lives, their potential, opportunities and the right to dream as big or small as they like. Or at least that is what the show was about for me. The strength of this new play is there is a lot you can unpack from it.
I went to see the final performance of Maenad Theatre Collective’s ‘Angel’ at the Water Rats on Wednesday. While it is too late for you to see this show as part of the Camden Fringe, I would be very surprised if it didn’t evolve further and have a future theatrical life.
I was really impressed by the ambition and originality of ‘Angel’, Natalie Graham is clearly a talented emerging playwright who is not afraid to merge mythic and mundane themes. It opens with a riot of energy that immediately absorbs you in the world of the play. I was particularly impressed by the performances of Jessica De Carvalho, Mia Foo and Jay Lafayette Coward as Angel’s disciples. I’m not sure what I’d do if they decided to invade my home and change my life through the art of partying.
Sophie Bird is compelling as Angel, and the use of the space at the Water Rats means that as an audience we are fully part of the action. However, the latter parts of the play are dialogue and exposition heavy. There is scope for the darker, more menacing aspects of the story to land more effectively by not over explaining, and trusting the audience to join the dots, particularly when Angel’s true motivations are revealed. As an audience member I didn’t feel growing dread with the realisation this was ultimately a story of personal vengeance. I was distracted by Angel expounding her ideology, yet again. This meant that when the violence hit, I was watching it from a safe, dispassionate distance, which was a wasted opportunity given how successfully I’d been sucked into the world of the play at the start.
I am not sure what Natalie Graham’s ambitions are for this show, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what she does next as I think that this has the scope to be honed into a truly powerful and timeless play.