Two Fest 2020: Prog C at The Space

Prog-C-scaled

Two Fest is a season of short, new duologues commissioned by The Space that tackle a wide range of different subjects. These 13 new short plays have been split across 3 different Programmes.  Last night, I went to see Programme C, to get a sense of what Two Fest 2020 is all about.

First up is ‘Why Are You Still Here?’ by Doc Andersen-Bloomfield. This piece focuses on the reaction of a spouse who, after many years of marriage, discovers her husband has a dark secret. Shame, and guilt by association, are explored in this restrained piece. Our wife Gillian is played with a very British stiff-upper-lip by Alessandra Perotto, who attempts to process the scandal and the events surrounding it while pruning her roses. Her husband Gerald, played with both defiance and vulnerability as required by Patric Guntert, haunts the piece rather than fully inhabiting it. This is an interesting take on how you would adjust to finding out your life-long partner isn’t who you thought they were. Should she have realised earlier? Directed by Callie Nestleroth, this is a piece that is intellectually intriguing, but struggles to land emotionally.

This was followed by the short and snappy ‘Balls’ written by Jack Hughes and Tamara von Werthern. In this piece two business women play golf, plan business domination and appreciate their own fabulous hair. Both Rebecca Robinson and Claudia Summers give punchy and macho performances as these women vie to demonstrate that they have the balls to dominate in a man’s world.  There is a dark humour to the competitive glee they take in plotting how many people they need to fire in order to achieve their money making vision. Directed by Rachael Bellis this is a focused, single-note play that certainly lands it point.

After the interval we have ‘Progress’ by Annie Fox. Kate (played by Georgina Patrick) is the head of history in a struggling Academy that is on special measures. Due to staff illness, she has had to hire a new history teacher (played by Matthew Wright) last minute. He is immediately popular, but she doesn’t trust him. Is this jealousy, or is he really too good to be true? I really enjoyed this piece, because the evolving relationship between the two teachers feels so authentic and relatable. How would you feel if you worked all hours to keep on top of things, and someone new starts and becomes  everyone’s darling while coasting along? I’m grinding my teeth just thinking about it. However ‘Progress’ takes this scenario a small, yet believable, step further. Both Patrick and Wright are wonderful in their respective roles. Director Charlotte Marie Everest  ensures that the tension between these two characters is brought to life in a naturalistic and effective way. Fox demonstrates a real talent for putting everyday people, in everyday contexts, under pressure, and revealing what might happen.

Finally we have ‘The End of Us’ by Emma Fenton-Wells. A very timely and topical piece that looks at both the end of a relationship, and the end of humanity. Katherine Kerman and Harry Trevaldwyn both give fabulous performances as our central couple who seem to be unable to avoid picking at the issues within their relationship, even in their final hours of life. Literally, there is a countdown clock to the mass extermination of humanity. To be fair, they do not a conventional marriage, he is gay, and she is his straight best friend. But, being set in a disturbingly not that distant future, this marriage was necessary for them to have a child. Jumping from the happy days when they decided to marry, to the present countdown, ‘The End of Us’ shows the damage that can be caused by an unbalanced relationship, where one person is more committed and invested than the other. While I like to hope I wouldn’t spend my final minutes picking at the scabs of my relationships, there is something compellingly resonant about the scenario. Director Olivia Munk incorporates smart uses of technology to set the context, but otherwise allows the heart of the play the sit with Kerman and Trevaldwyn’s convincing performances, which is where it belongs.  While this piece could benefit from a bit of tightening-up, it is definitely absorbing.

If you enjoy new writing, and an engaging variety of short plays the remaining Two Fest 2020 schedule is as follows (all performances at 7.30pm unless otherwise stated):

Programme A – 19th, 22nd (1pm) February

Programme B – 20th, 22nd (4pm) February

Programme C -21st, 22nd February

You can find out more here: https://space.org.uk/event/two-fest-programme-c/

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