Review: One Million Tiny Plays About Britain
Image courtesy Jermyn Street Theatre
A couple peer into an estate agent's window; two sports fans have a heart-to-heart in the loo; a daughter has questions about her mother's love life; and as a father helps his son tie his football boots, he realises they are growing apart.
If you keep your eyes and ears open, there are a million tiny plays happening every day.
Originally published in The Guardian, this collage of scenes now form a hugely entertaining and addictive evening in the theatre.
It will change the way you listen to the world around you, and train journeys will never be the same again.
On Wednesday 11 December there will be a Q & A, immediately after the performance.
The panel will consist of Laura Keefe, Director and the cast.
All patrons are welcome to stay.
With nigh on 70 million of us in this land, there are probably far more than one million tiny plays taking place across the realm during the course of an average day.
As we interact with our colleagues, friends, family and even total strangers, scenes unfold that might well form part of a comedy or drama - or stand alone as nuanced indicators of the state of our nation, or the stuff that really matters to us.
Craig Taylor's concept of stringing together a host of tiny plays is immediately appealing and resonant since most of us love eavesdropping on conversations on the bus, or watching mini dramas unfold in the most unlikely places.
Actors Emma Barclay and Alec Nicholls also seem to relish the basic idea here which provides them with a multitude of disparate characters to (quickly) get their teeth into.
Scenes range over almost every aspect of life - from a mobile phone conversation to a harassed (or incompetent) GP and football supporters relieving themselves at half time.
Alec Nicholls and Emma Barclay - photo by Robert Workman
There's a sense of a random element in the show which is embodied in the bingo card which dominates the setting and a voice over which calls out numbers before location changes.
I'm not sure if that means the order of scenes varies at each performance or whether the randomisation is merely suggested rather than actual.
We certainly seem to be in a bingo hall as we take our seats and the cast greet us in the guise of friendly, if somewhat bored ushers.
And they give us a neat opening scene with a clever and inventive touch of humour through a glimpse of their nightly surreptitious activities.
The following scenes, though, fail to capitalise on the comic potential proffered in that tantalising opener.
Though there's more comedy in the second half than the first, the show as a whole is merely mildly amusing and fails to plunder the (sometimes lip-bitingly funny) mix of tragedy and comedy that is often the hallmark of events we witness in real life - or even those that play out in private away from the public gaze.
That turns out to be quite important since the tiny plays here are 'about Britain' and any examination of what makes British people 'tick' surely has to embody the rich vein of humour that often transcends even the most divisive or harrowing events.
Of course there's more to British life than humour and some of the issues we're facing as a community get a worthy look-in - such as the harassed GP, a young girl worried about being spied-on by CCTV, and a confused elderly woman who is sliding into the horrors of dementia.
Alec Nicholls and Emma Barclay ably capture the cross-section of characters the sketches introduce and the show is meticulously orchestrated in amiably unhurried fashion by director Laura Keefe.
But the show as a whole never delivers really big laughs - nor those truly heart-wrenching or excruciating moments - that often permeate daily life as it erupts around us.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Jermyn Street Theatre
Our show listing for One Million Tiny Plays About Britain
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