Review: Off Cut Festival Group 3, Riverside Studios

“Hey, let’s put on a play”

Due to a manic schedule this week, I was only able to attend one of the final two groups of plays in the Off Cut Festival, a fact which will annoy the completist in me something rotten, but I was pleased to at least have made it to three of the four. Reviews of Groups One and Two have already been posted, and here is a quick collection of thoughts about these plays before we head into the final week when the top two plays from each group will play for the week, ahead of the final at which the winners will be decided.

Head and shoulders above the rest for me was Mark Wright’s Looking for Vi, a gently cautionary tale about the effects of obsessive fandom on both the super-fan and on the subject too, as geeky Julia tracks down reclusive former soapstar Vi in an old person’s home in order to complete a set of signatures from her favourite TV show. But behind this simple task lies deep wells of emotion for both women and they are given beautiful depth by Maroussia Frank and Joy Blakeman. Another of my favourites was Hannah Williams Walton’s Memories of Loss, an intertwining tale of two stories of tragic loss and the histories behind the relationships. It was a quietly moving piece and given interesting direction by Ali Anderson-Dyer and it was something I felt that could be developed into something quite intriguing.

Elsewhere, I was a little disappointed by The Final Days of Fringe Theatre, the piece picked by the bloggers, which I felt didn’t quite capture the hilarity that came across in the reading we had, but there was good work in Afsaneh Gray’s The Dictator and some amusement in Beatrice Armstrong’s Alternative Therapy with its S+M session turning into more of a therapeutic meeting, but I wasn’t sure where else it would go in a full treatment.

Altogether, I think this was the strongest of the groups that I saw as there was more of a depth to the writing, not relying quite so much on the humour but unafraid to delve into darker territory and explore the possibilities offered in this form. The coming week is probably the best to go now, as the programme will be made up of the shows that the audiences have responded to most positively and so you’ll get the cream of the crop.

Group 3 plays
The Final Days of Fringe Theatre by Ian Townsend, directed by Sharon Willems
Memories of Loss by Hannah Williams Walton, directed by Ali Anderson-Dyer
Not To Be by Jake Leonard, directed by Sian Thomas
Alternative Therapy by Beatrice Armstrong, directed by Dawn Kalani-Cowle
The Dictator’s Face by Afsaneh Gray, directed by Tom McLaren
Spring by Georgina Burns, directed by Gbemisola Ikumelo
Looking For Vi by Mark Wright, directed by Julia St John

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