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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. And we take the opportunity to explore other vintage productions preserved online. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

Original Theatre Online  Summer 2022

One of three new plays staged by Original Theatre at London's Riverside Studios earlier this year and now available online, Eilidh Nurse's Miles is an engaging character study in small lives made bearable by small expectations.

24-year-old Janie works in a rundown caravan park on the Scottish coast, owned by gruff but fatherly Bobby. They hire school-leaver Ed as general handyman, and are at first taken aback by his unflagging good spirits, but gradually warm to him, though Janie remains cynical and borderline-depressed.

What passes for a plot comes with the arrival of Ed's black-sheep older brother. No points for guessing that he and Janie have a dark past and there will be disturbing revelations.

But this is really the weakest part of the play because, for all its shock value, it is the most conventional and predictable. (Another revelation about the relationship of two characters, hinted at throughout the play, turns out to be a red herring, explicitly denied at the end.)

The real power of the play lies in the believable and sympathetic picture of little people with very limited lives being protected from despair by even more limited imaginations.

Ed is so delighted to have a job and what pass for friends that he can't see how little they amount to. Bobby's worries at the prospect of his business going bust keep being eclipsed by the adventures of middle-age dating.

And even if Janie vaguely remembers having dreams more grand than this, a cynical quip and an occasional drink are enough to keep her going.

The audience sees and feels how dead-end the characters' lives are more than they themselves do, but we also see and appreciate how their limited vision allows them something like contentment and perhaps even happiness.

This Original Theatre production is fully staged rehearsed reading that is, the actors carry and refer to scripts but, under Amelia Sears' skilled and sensitive direction, have fully developed their characterisations and actions.

Hiftu Quasem invests Janie with exactly the right balance of rebellion and resignation to make any next step in her life believable, while Cristian Ortega gives Ed the emotional indestructibility of simple innocence.

Miles is a small play with not a great deal to tell us about life. But it offers ninety minutes in the company of attractive characters whose small stories are warming and reassuring.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Miles - Original Theatre Online 2022