Review: Feast from the East
Image courtesy Ink Festival
by Shaun Kitchener
Cast Joseph Clayton, Will Howard, Ed Jones
Director Paul Schlesinger
by Scarlett Curtis
Cast Holly Ashman, Barbara Horne, Tessa Wojtczak
Director Jane Zarins
by James McDermott
Cast Will Howard
Director James Christopher
by Dan Allum
Cast Holly Ashman, Joseph Clayton
Director Dan Allum
NINA'S NOT OKAY
by Shappi Khorsandi
Cast Amber Muldoon
Director Jane Zarins
ANOTHER SUITCASE IN ANOTHER HALL
by Richard Curtis
Cast Ed Jones, William Kempsell, Amber Muldoon
Director Julia Sowerbutts with Huw Brentnall
by Martha Loader
Cast Amber Muldoon, Tess Wojtczak
Director Peter Kavanagh
by Corin Child
Cast Joseph Clayton, Will Howard, Ed Jones, William Kempsell, Amber Muldoon
Director Peter Broad
This May, INK Festival is going on the road and taking the best of East Anglia's short plays to London in Feast from the East, with contributions from such writing superstars as Richard Curtis and his daughter Scarlett.
Over four years INK has drawn attention to the extraordinary potential of the short play as an under-utilised artform and has produced more than 100 new plays.
Feast from the East, in partnership with The Actors Centre at Tristan Bates Theatre, continues the mission of both organisations to encourage new short plays.
Each night in London, there will be eight brilliant short plays performed, from new writers to established playwrights.
9 short plays are collectively given a title that plays with the nickname of the extreme cold snap that the UK endured last winter.
But there's not really much connection with extreme climatic conditions to bind the short plays that make-up this 2 hour plus programme, since they range over a diverse mix of human emotions and predicaments.
Though this programme is far removed from the 'beast' that lurks in our memories, it is most definitely a theatrical 'feast', brimming with novel ideas and characters embodied in pieces that were selected from 350 submissions for INK Festival 2019.
A champion of the short play format, the annual festival 'nurtures and develops work by writers who have a strong physical or historical connection with East Anglia'.
Feast from the East, then, gives London audiences the chance to share the festival's passion for the short play and to relish well-honed performances from a top-notch cast.
The programme kicks-off with comedy and features a strong vein of humour right the way through proceedings, though Christopher Reason's A Selfish Boy, which wraps-up the evening, leaves us with an imagined conversation that lends more sombre and poignant notes to mull-over on the way home.
Richard Curtis's Another Suitcase, Another Hall opens the programme, taking a fairly brief comedic swipe at the role of the director and the difficulties involved in the rehearsal process as a singer tries to deliver a song while the director changes his mind about an 'essential' prop.
There's more effective comedy in Ed Jones's description of a meeting of a stationery business's Ping Pong Club, which fires-up rivalry between Richard, the club's ardent leader, and Maxton, an accountant charged with pairing down the firm's expenses but who also turns out to be a first-rate ping pong player.
That may seem like a simple enough idea, but it requires some spot-on timing to make it work in terms of synching the action to the sound effects - clever stuff that also turns out to be very funny.
There's plenty of breadth and variety in the inventive ideas and drama in Feast from the East, but sadly neither time or space here to detail them all.
Though it always seems divisive to give one piece special mention in a show of this kind, I have to single-out Shaun Kitchener's That's Great, which for me was the play of the evening.
It's an acutely funny and well-written three-hander where Ed Jones gives us a pitch-perfect portrayal of a vulnerable and reticent young man, Rory, who has designs on Jake, but struggles to find the courage to ask him for a date, even with the 'apparent' support of his flatmate - great stuff.
But the writing is impressive throughout this programme, providing ample entertainment, tons of comedy and some thought-provoking and relevant issues to chew on for good measure.
Multiple shows being performed in quick succession can place considerable demands on cast and crew, particularly if the plays are not all going to be delivered on a bare stage.
Here, though, we find cleverly orchestrated and efficient scene changes that allow ample space for props, including a large bed, to find their way into the pieces.
Of course, this multi-play format is not new or unique, but Feast from the East stands right up there with the best I've seen, ably demonstrating that the art of the short play is still alive and kicking in a high-quality, richly varied programme.
And if your appetite for the short play has been stimulated, you might want to make a note of the next INK Festival which will take place on 17, 18 and 19 April 2020 (keep an eye on the festival's website for upcoming details).
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Tristan Bates Theatre
Our show listing for Feast from the East
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