“We’re ready to go off-script now”
Ever the contrarian, I took in Double Feature 1 at the National Theatre’s found space the Paintframe second, after Double Feature 2 – of which I was not the greatest fan – but I had been told that both plays in 1 were better than 2 so perhaps this was the best way round to see them. In the end, I have to agree that these two plays were far stronger than those in 2 – a more satisfying experience for me as an individual but I would argue that they are better written too.
Edgar and Annabel comes from the pen of Sam Holcroft, who I’ve yet to see a full-length play from though I have seen her shorter works in both Clean Break’s Charged and the Tricycle’s Women, Power and Politics seasons. The second comes from DC Moore, a writer about whom I am getting increasingly excited, his The Empire followed by Honest, which was just about as good as a one-man show could be.
As with the DF2 review, I’ve written about each show individually at more length – Edgar and Annabel and The Swan – to try and minimise the potential for spoilers here, but also because there is great delight in letting the plays, in particular Edgar and Annabel play out without any pre-knowledge. Suffice to say that I enjoyed both greatly and if you have to pick between the two, I would unreservedly go for DF1.
Looking over the two evenings, it is interesting to see the connections that can be drawn. The programming works well as a whole for the most part: There Is A War and Edgar and Annabel share a dystopian world-view whilst the latter also shares thematic issues with The Swan in its analysis of communication and honesty. It is hard to see how Nightwatchman fits in with all the others to be honest, but it is still engagingly performed.
There’s always something fun about watching an ensemble such differing roles within productions – Kirsty Bushell wins the award for the best performer over the two nights in my book – and the transformation of this space has been something quite special and it is a shame that it has to be temporary. One wonders what impact it will actually have, if any, in the end: the audience on both nights did not seem to reflect anything other than the regular NT crowd and once all closed up, will there be much of a legacy left over? I hope this could become an annual fixture to keep some of this different energy pulsing around the complex.