“I was actually quite good at swingball you know”
As the National Youth Theatre’s annual West End rep season is about to start up again, it’s rather neat to see one of its key members from last year’s company writing and starring in her own show. Kate Kennedy took on the lead role in the much-maligned Selfie and since then has become the UK Monologue Slam Champion, been Offie-nominated for her acting and shortlisted for the Papatango Prize for The Win Bin, which has been playing at the Old Red Lion these past few weeks.
Co-created with Sara Joyce who directs, The Win Bin is a free-wheeling fantasia which imagines the competitiveness of the arts job market projected into a dystopian near-future. And it’s not all that fantastical either, “the last paid job in the arts” being decided via a Hunger Games-meets-Big-Brother procedure with the final round being a 12 hour assessment day with six people having made it through, all realistically desperate in their own way.
Lest that all sound too serious though, the show is mostly structured as a rapid-fire sketch comedy with Kennedy and co-star Wilf Scolding each taking on three roles and ricocheting between them all in a series of vignettes. From eye-catchingly extreme behaviour to the grind of auditions, the reality of internships to the reality TV tropes aimed at garnering sympathy, it’s a neat encapsulation of how far some people will go when pushed to the limit.
It is also however one gag stretched rather thin and though Kennedy and Scolding have huge fun and are occasionally hugely funny in their well-differentiated characters, it does become a little wearying even in this short running time. Joyce’s production is much more effective in the brilliant comedy of the opening sequence which confirms Kennedy as a real talent and makes her role as Helena in the forthcoming David Tennant / Russell T Davies’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream one to look out for.