Review: Off the Page – Microplays 4-6 from the Royal Court and the Guardian

“I believe in being open to all cultures”


There’s something a little perversely ironic about Tim Price’s PPE being one of the more effective microplays (SHORT FILMS!) of the Royal Court and Guardian collaboration given how it is a wordless piece. Directed by Hamish Pirie with movement choreographed by the excellent Ann Yee, it plays off the trademark physical gestures that politicians have become known for using as an emollient to the relentlessly grim messages that they’ve had to deliver in recent years. David Annen, Cyril Nri and Eileen Walsh do a cracking job as leaders of different parties and just through physical expression, manage to hypnotise and hoodwink a whole host of supernumeraries standing in for the too-willing electorate. It’s not a world entirely without hope but it’s a powerful indictment of how much of contemporary politics is stagecraft that we just lap up.

Chloë Moss’ Devil In The Detail focuses on the world of fashion, something that director Christopher Haydon laughingly admits to knowing little of but as a multi-million pound enterprise, there’s much more to it than just knowing which handbag is currently de rigueur. Moss picks up on the way that fashion can be used to bolster a person’s mood and self-belief – as Pippa Bennett-Warner and Vanessa Kirby’s characters get ready for award shows in the atelier of a hot designer – but also how the world of fashionistas can wield it as a vicious weapon as Lucy Ellinson’s killer stylist (such lipstick, so colour, many wow!) corrects the assumptions they’ve made, casually dishing out humiliation and obsequiousness which shatters the mood that playing dress-up had cultivated between the pair.

And last in the series is education – School Gate by Rachel De-lahay uses the hysteria around the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ affair in Birmingham where academically successful schools were thrown under a harsh spotlight due to alleged extremist Islamic infiltration. Anna Maxwell Martin and Liz White play mothers picking up their children from the school gates and in the space of a short conversation, reveal masses about their fears for their children and their futures, the reputation of the school and their neighbourhood now a Muslim primary school has opened. Gbolahan Obiesesan directs with a fierce energy, tight close-ins emphasise the gossipy, secretive nature of the attitudes divulged and teases excellent performances from both women. A strong finish to an interesting series.

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